Exclusive: British firm Arena provide the seating and infrastructure for sports events and they are relocating their HQ to the Middle East, where they are holding their next board meeting
Saudi Arabia’s expansion into sport is continuing this year with the £71million takeover of a British company specialising in seats and infrastructure for sports events by a Middle East consortium.
Shareholders of Arena Events Group Plc have sanctioned the takeover which is now just waiting on UK and Middle Eastern regulatory approval.
It is the latest sports deal involving Saudi Arabia after a group led by the nation’s sovereign wealth fund bought Newcastle, who are due there this coming week at a warm weather training camp.
Arena is now planning to relocate to the Middle East where it will be owned by a UAE and Saudi consortium.
It currently provides a lot of temporary infrastructure for sports events around the world, including the European Tour’s BMW Championship at Wentworth.
Their final board meeting as a listed company is this coming week in Dubai where new CEO Paul Berger is due to be confirmed as replacing the outgoing Greg Lawless.
Control is then due to pass to the Theta consortium made up of the International Holding Company, an Abu Dhabi-based publicly-listed investor, and Saudi Arabian-based holding company Tasheel.
They intend to support a shake up of golf under Greg Norman who was recently named the chief executive of LIV Golf Investments, a new company majority-owned by Public Investment Fund, the £330bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
Norman’s appointment was announced alongside the LIV’s £146m commitment to invest in the Asian Tour with their main aim to bring the sport’s top stars to Saudi in lucrative tournaments.
It is the latest move from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to drive to diversify and grow non-oil businesses.
At the BMW Championship at Wentworth last September , Arena supplied over 9,000m² of temporary structures across the course and 3,109 grandstand seats across three locations.
They are also involved in Wimbledon and other sports including boxing, snooker ,cricket and table tennis, which is how the business started back in 1967 amid a table tennis match between England and the USA in the old Corn Exchange in Newbury.
This latest move is part of Saudi Arabia spending over £1billion on high-profile international sporting events in a bid to bolster its reputation, a report revealed last year.
The oil-rich nation has invested millions across the sporting world, from chess championships to golf, tennis and £44m alone on the Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse-racing event with prize money of £14.75m.
The Kingdom has spent big to secure involvement in global sporting events, part of efforts to present Saudi Arabia as a newly business-friendly, forward-thinking nation.
Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
“Vision 2030 has set the creation of professional sports and a sports industry as one of its goals. That will not only potentially provide employment for thousands of Saudis but it will also improve the quality of life for everyone living in the kingdom,” said Fahad Nazer, spokesperson for the Saudi Arabian embassy.
“The kingdom is proud to host and support various athletic and sporting events which not only introduce Saudis to new sports and renowned international athletes but also showcase the kingdom’s landmarks and the welcoming nature of its people to the world.”