For those who consider themselves fans of sports other than football or golf – and I, for one, absolutely do - it’s been easy over the past few months to observe, somewhat smugly, about the shallowness of these two sports that have jumped into bed with Saudi Arabia. 

The lure of hundreds of millions of pounds, for many golfers and footballers, has been too strong. 

With seemingly scant regard for the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia, many within golf and football have sold their soul. 

But, for all of those who’ve watched these golfers and footballers disapprovingly take the Saudi buck; don’t get too smug because the Saudi’s are, almost certainly, coming for your sport too. 

If Saudi Arabia deems any particular sport to have any worth at all, they’re coming for it. And probably, soon. 

Without question, tennis is the next sport the Saudis have their sights set on. 

It seems almost certain that tennis’ ‘Next-Gen Finals’ – the end of year tournament for the sport’s best up-and-coming male players - will be held in Saudi Arabia from this year onwards. 

Reports have also emerged in recent days about Saudi Arabia’s interest in buying the United Cup, a mixed team tournament that has seen the world’s very best players, including Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, play. 

And both the men’s and women’s tours, the ATP and WTA, have expressed an interest in doing deals with Saudi Arabia. 

And it’s not just tennis that is in the queue to become bedfellows with one of the most repulsive countries in the world when it comes to human rights. 

In cycling, the Saudis are exploring a deal to take over the naming rights for Jumbo-Visma, which is cycling’s number one team, from next year. 

The Dutch team, which boasts the current Tour de France champion within its ranks, is looking for a new title sponsor after being told that the supermarket chain Jumbo will not be renewing its agreement. The Saudis are looking on with interest. 

And the NBA which, on the face of it, is as American as they come, is having to consider a Saudi charge. 

This is in addition to the numerous other sports which have already dipped their toe into the Saudi waters, but not jumped ship. Motor racing, boxing and more than a few others have dabbled without selling their souls entirely. Yet. 

So it’s clear that Saudi Arabia is deadly serious in making its mark not only in a few flaghship sports but across the board. 

There’s even been talk of Saudi Arabia hosting the Olympic Games. 

Already, the 2029 Asian Winter Games are headed to Saudi, as well as the 2034 Asian Games. An Olympic bid is the next logical step. 

What has happened over the past few years in terms of Saudi Arabia attempting to take over sport has been remarkable. 

The amount of money in play is even more remarkable. 

$200 million a year for Cristiano Ronaldo. $200 million from LIV golf for Phil Mickelson. A bid in excess of £250 million for Kylian Mbappe. It’s sums of money that small countries can only dream of, never mind individuals. 

Few are fooled that it’s to improve sports as a whole; we all know it’s entirely in the interests of sports-washing.  

But the sports-washing question remains an interesting one. 

It’s clear what the objective is; it’s using sport to paper over some extremely dubious human rights records despite the protestations of the Saudis that the intention is to inspire the youth of the kingdom, encourage kids to play sports and attract tourists to the country. 

The money is, essentially, all coming from the Saudi royal family. Theirs is one of the largest private investment funds in the world and they’ve chosen to funnel large portions of their money into sport. 

So it’s interesting to delve into what they expect in return for this investment. 

In the rest of the world, investment in sport comes with the explicit expectation that in return will come significant income through media rights, ticket sales and sponsorship deals to recoup the initial investment and turn a profit. 

However, in Saudi Arabia, they’re playing by entirely different rules. 

Getting bums on seats is not their objective; indeed, the footballers who now ply their trade in Saudi Arabia and who had been used to playing almost exclusively in front of tens of thousands of fans are now playing in front of almost empty stands. But the Saudis don’t care; their objective is far less parochial than that. 

There have been, amongst the negativity, glimpses of good. 

Females are now permitted to box in the country, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. 

But don’t be fooled that any material changes are happening in Saudi Arabia as a result of their attempts to present a glossy picture to the world.  

In the Freedom Index, which evaluates the state of human freedom around the world, Saudi Arabia ranks 155 out of 165 countries in the world. 

Within Saudi Arabia, for many Saudi Arabians, things are as dire as they’ve always been. 

So the coming few years are going to be fascinating. 

Every single sport on the planet is vulnerable to a Saudi takeover because, and don’t kid yourself, every single sport has its price. 

And often, it’s lower than you might have thought. 

A decade ago, we’d never have believed the impact that Saudi Arabia would have within the world of sport these days. 

In another ten years time, the impact could be far, far greater.