Sports Exploitation to Whitewash Saudi Human Rights Record Continues

The Savvy Gaming Group, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, has purchased the largest tournaments and video games “ESL and FACEIT” for $1.05 billion to merge them to become the ESL FACEIT Group.

The Savvy Gaming Group is now led by CEO Brian Ward, a former Senior Vice President who worked at “Activision” and is currently working with founder Jerry Jamie. The leadership of both ESL and FACEIT will remain the same under the new “ESL FACEIT Group”.

This acquisition will be subject to regulatory approvals and to be completed in the second quarter of 2022. The Group aims to move games and payers to major games and leagues.

Savvy Gaming was set up in 2021 to “drive the long-term development of the sports and e-sports industry” and it is owned by the Saudi Fund, which is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, controls at least $500 billion of the country’s wealth, and is managed by the Saudi Crown Prince and the country’s de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia seeks to be the largest incubator of esports championships in the world, and this deal is a new example of the “sports washing” attempts carried out by the Saudi authorities increasingly to cover up the crimes of the regime, and to draw attention away from the systematic violations practiced against opponents and critics at home, or war crimes committed abroad in countries like Yemen.

Last year, the Saudi Public Investment Fund succeeded in acquiring Newcastle United Football Club, and the Saudi authorities also organised the famous Formula 1 motor racing championship, with other international matches and tournaments for tennis, golf, and world football tournaments such as the Spanish Super Cup, and other international sporting events.

A small number of international athletes or international sports entities have refused to cooperate with the Saudi regime for its appalling human rights records, such as British tennis star Andemuray, however, the rest agreed to play there in return for huge sums of money while turning a blind eye to the blood of the innocents in Yemen, or the wasted rights of Saudi opponents at home, and the security pursuits that are practiced even against exiles abroad like Jamal Khashoggi.

The crimes of the Saudi regime are blatant and ignoring them gives the green light for the authorities to continue these violations and commit more in a brutal manner. We call on all entities to stop cooperating with the Saudi regime immediately until it improves its human rights situation and until all perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable.

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