The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Confederation of African Football (CAF) soccer governing bodies have become the latest major soccer properties to add the Saudi Arabian tourism board, Visit Saudi, as a commercial partner.

Through a tie-up announced yesterday (October 12), Visit Saudi is now an official global partner of the AFC’s national team competitions through until December next year, while the CAF deal sees the brand become the main sponsor of the inaugural African Football League (AFL) clubs competition for its inaugural edition this year.

These collaborations have both been unveiled within days of Saudi Arabia confirming its intent to bid for hosting rights to the men’s FIFA World Cup top-tier tournament in 2034. It will need the support of FIFA’s regional confederations – such as CAF, with the AFC having already publicly backed the bid – in this process.

The main national team competition run by the AFC during the next 14 months will be the Asian Cup in Qatar, due to take place in January and February next year, while the tie-up will also extend across various age-group Asian Cups, the qualifying tournament run by the AFC for the women’s soccer competition at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and the Futsal Asian Cup next year.

The AFC and Visit Saudi will collaborate on activations and promotional efforts across the aforementioned national team competitions, with activities to take place both at these events and in Saudi itself.

The first eight-team AFL, meanwhile, will take place between October 20 and November 11, and CAF has said its partnership with Visit Saudi will create “a bridge and a partnership between two worlds that share a profound passion for soccer.” CAF has also said it is open to extending the collaboration into future AFL editions.

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Datuk Seri Windsor John, general secretary of the AFC, said: “The AFC is pleased to welcome Visit Saudi as our latest official global partner, which once again reiterates the ever-growing stature and profound impact of the AFC’s world-class national teams’ competitions in reaching audiences across the globe.”

Alhasan Aldabbagh, Visit Saudi’s president of Asia-Pacific Markets, added: "This ground-breaking partnership is the perfect platform to showcase Saudi’s unparalleled tourism experiences. Saudi’s passion for soccer is matched only by its mesmerizing beauty and rich heritage."

Aside from the FIFA World Cup, Saudi Arabia has already successfully bid to host the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, staging that event for the first time, and also has a bid in place to put on the women’s edition in 2026.

Visit Saudi, meanwhile, was installed as a global partner of Spanish men’s soccer's top-tier LaLiga in mid-August.

The agreement will see LaLiga showcase Saudi Arabia as a year-round tourist destination, with LaLiga activities held in Saudi Arabia to increase the profile of the league in the kingdom.

The kingdom has emerged as a key player in sports investment in recent years and has poured billions into major events. However, it has been accused of using its financial prowess to launder its alleged human rights abuses, restrictions on women’s rights, and use of the death penalty.

Its latest project has been to bring high-profile players to its domestic league through lucrative contracts and high transfer fees, the latest being Brazilian superstar Neymar.

CAF has also unveiled international credit card giant Visa as a sponsor this week.

Visa is now the official and exclusive payment partner for upcoming competitions including the next two editions of both the men’s and women’s Africa Cup of Nations national team tournament.

CAF has said that Visa will “bring its payment technology to customers and connect African soccer's passionate and engaged fans and spectators through unique and unforgettable experiences during the competition.”

The next men’s AFCON will be held in the Ivory Coast between January 13 and February 11 next year.

Patrice Motsepe, president of CAF, said: “We welcome Visa which is a reputable and established global brand to the African soccer family. This partnership will contribute to increasing the popularity and attractiveness of CAF competitions amongst fans and spectators in Africa and worldwide.”

Aida Diarra, Visa’s senior vice president and head of sub-Saharan Africa, added: “Our partnership with CAF and the upcoming tournament in the Ivory Coast provides a platform for us to enhance the overall fan experience and further connect with our clients, partners, consumers and the communities in which we do business. We are looking forward to bringing new and unique experiences that will make the tournament truly memorable for fans everywhere.”

The title sponsor of the next AFCON is French oil and gas company TotalEnergies.