AS Roma’s sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia causes fury in capital and could impact new stadium plans

AS Roma's sponsorship deal with Riyadh Season has led to anger in the Italian capital, with Rome competing with Riyadh to secure the hosting rights of Expo 2030.

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After agreeing on terms with the Saudi Arabian state-funded festival Riyadh Season as a primary shirt sponsor, AS Roma have been met with backlash in Italy and it could have a long-term effect on the Serie A club’s ambitions to build a new stadium.

As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Roma‘s decision to adorn the Saudi sports and entertainment festival has gone down badly within the city’s municipal offices, with Riyadh rivalling Rome in bidding to host Expo 2030.

Indeed, it is expected that the event could generate €10 billion for the Italian capital should their bid be successful, and the Giallorossi’s decision to partner with a competitor has caught mayor Roberto Gualtieri by surprise.

Romelu Lukaku shoots for AS Roma. [@ASRomaEN]

Riyadh Season providing healthy income for AS Roma

From Roma‘s perspective, the link-up with Riyadh Season is set to bring in a much-needed €25 million over the next two years following the collapse of an arrangement with previous sponsors Digitalbits. The Lupi debuted their new kit partner in a 4-0 win over Servette in the Europa League in October.

However, it could come at a cost when the club seek approval on plans to build a new stadium, as they seek to move away from the Stadio Olimpico.

Whilst the city council are still ready to accommodate Roma‘s plans, with the final project expected to be unveiled for planning permission in December or January, there will now be no room for manoeuvre and the club must meet every regulation and prescription of the Public Interest Office or face further delays.

With the project already years behind schedule, there is a fear that more setbacks will see the 2027 inauguration date, to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Giallorossi, missed.

AS Roma tifo at the Stadio Olimpico. [@OfficialASRoma]

Saudi Arabian human rights record leads to complaints

However, not all politicians are willing to work with Roma on the stadium project due to Saudi Arabia’s questionable human rights record. Public Works Commission chairman Antonio Stampete is reported to be keen to punish the Lupi for their agreement, whilst Sports Commission president Fernando Bonessio was particularly damning.

“I don’t want to go so far as to say ‘go and build the stadium in Riyadh’, but the disappointment is strong,” Bonessio told New Sound Level.

“Was it appropriate for this sponsor to be there at this time? Is the value of this sponsor worth the 90-year concession of the area of the supposed new stadium?”

Roma are looking to make the move to the Pietralata district of the city and end a relationship with the Stadio Olimpico that has now spanned 70 years.

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