Qatar aims to build $27 billion sports industry

Officials of the Qatar contingent at the lobby of the Swissotel The Stamford for the 2009 Asian Youth Olympics in Singapore.
Officials of the Qatar contingent at the lobby of the Swissotel The Stamford for the 2009 Asian Youth Olympics in Singapore.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

DOHA (AFP) - Qatar wants to build a US$20 billion (S$27 billion) sports industry by 2022 as it seeks to develop new markets amid regional political tensions, an economic official in the emirate said Sunday (Feb 17).

Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida, chief executive of the Qatar Financial Centre, said he expected the target to be reached within three years - without specifying how the figure was reached or giving its current value.

Jaida said there would be "a major expansion of sports in terms of targets and in terms of focus".

Although well-known for hosting sporting events - and Qatar is likely to bid again to host the Olympics - Jaida said the new approach would go further.

The development of the industry would focus not only on hosting, but increased use of Qatari sporting medical and training facilities which are considered among the best in the world.

One of the ways, he added, would be to cash in on the growing international reputation of the country's expensive sports' training centre, the Aspire Academy, who had officials present at the launch Sunday.

Aspire is used by an increasing number of teams - including Bayern Munich and Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain - and is a hothouse for many of the local players who recently helped Qatar win the Asian Cup.

"We're doing this in coordination with Aspire and if you look at the infrastructure that they put together it's massive, it's world class and I think we can build upon their success," said Jaida.

The QFC is a government-backed business body that aims to attract domestic and international investment into Qatar.

Jaida admitted that the new approach had been driven because of political tensions in the Gulf.

"The strategy came about because of the geo-political situation," he said.

Since June 2017, Qatar has found itself isolated from neighbouring former allies in a bitter political dispute.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain accuse Qatar of supporting and funding "terrorism" and of working with Riyadh's regional foe Iran.

Doha denies the charges and accuses its rivals of seeking regime change in Qatar.