Kingdom of Football

Saudi Arabia and the Remaking of World Soccer

December 2024 9781911723660 264pp
Forthcoming Pre-order
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


Kingdom of Football explores how and why Saudi Arabia burst onto the landscape of world football in 2023, and examines what the speed and scale of Saudi engagement—as investor, owner, sponsor, host and competitor—might mean for the Kingdom and for football.

Writing as both a football fan and a Gulf specialist, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen offers historical and comparative contexts for Saudi Arabia’s startling emergence as a world football hub in the 2020s, exploring both previous Saudi investment in the game, in the 1970s, and national attempts elsewhere to kickstart the sport, as in the United States, Japan and China.

Going beyond popular media labels such as ‘sportswashing’, this fascinating book examines what drives Saudi policymaking, connecting the move into football with domestic economic and social developments, as well as external and foreign policy considerations. It also examines how Riyadh’s foray into world football both builds upon and yet differs from the approaches taken by other Gulf States, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Finally, Coates Ulrichsen assesses the sustainability and durability of the Kingdom’s engagement with the sport in the decade-long countdown to the 2034 FIFA World Cup, which Saudi Arabia is set to host.


Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. His books with Hurst include Qatar and the Gulf Crisis and Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States. He supports West Ham.

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