The message from Riyadh: you have to be on the pitch to score

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Messages from the archive of Rutherford Hall, critical communications strategist

WhatsApp to all@Monkwell: Greetings from Riyadh, where the temperature is a balmy 73 degrees and the precipitation is — ah, let me check — zero. I’ve even got in a bit of cycling in the evenings and a new personal best on the Bawdah loop!

I’m blown away by the vibe here. The Public Investment Fund is doing amazing things — and to be frank — this is the biggest business opportunity right now. Our Dubai hub is booming and it’s especially cool to be working with the Saudi Pro League as they turn the country into a soccer superpower. Check out the view of the stadium from my seat.

WhatsApp to Stephen: OK yes, a new personal best was guaranteed on the first effort but watch this space. It’s pretty dead in the evenings tbf but it’s only an hour’s flight to Dubai and three nights in Riyadh is manageable. You’d go mad if you had to spend the weekend here. Still, it leaves me free to hit the bike.

WhatsApp to all@Monkwell: No, if you look closer, the stadium is not empty. There are some fans in the corner on the right.



Greetings Yasir,

We’re very excited to be working with you. The Pro League has made a major splash and this backlash was predictable. The colonial soccer powers don’t like competition for their stars. But can we get some more fans in?

We do need to deal with the players who are leaving. The good news is there’s not a lot of sympathy for ageing footballers who pocket more than £1mn a month then start complaining when faced with some negligible hardships. But we don’t want these stories putting off other players. Can we get some of the other stars doing broadcast features and Hello magazine, showing off their fabulous lifestyle, camping safaris in the desert and talking about their enthusiasm for the game here?

Speak soon, Rutherford

Find me on Strava, KoM Sydenham Hill, PR Al Jubailah/Bawdah Loop — 70 mins

WhatsApp to MailJohn: Hi J, I wonder if I can interest you in a whiny wags story from Saudi. Apparently a couple of partners (who I could name anonymously) are bitching about their Saudi lifestyle. They can’t go to the shops in their bikinis without being told off, or enjoy a night out clubbing. A maxi skirt doesn’t seem too much to ask for a couple of years’ worth of multimillion paydays. 

WhatsApp to SunSteve: Yeah, these past-it players are trousering more than a million a month and then whining about the quality of football, whining about the stadiums, whining that their partners aren’t getting the shopping experience they expect. Some don’t even live in Saudi. They base themselves in Bahrain and commute. I mean seriously, there’s a reason the Pro League pays top dollar to people whose only remaining career options are launching a soccer podcast with Joey Barton. The Saudis expect better faith. You commit to the project and you commit to the country. Is that so much to ask for what they are earning?

WhatsApp to Susan: Susan, I see this as a way for Monkwell to be a force for good pushing the social reform agenda. We are already seeing great changes there. PS: Don’t call me the Jordan Henderson of crisis comms; I’m still the boss here. Cristiano Ronaldo is the more appropriate analogy!

WhatsApp to George: Sorry, George, I know the commute is a pest but we are scaling back on WFH.



Thank you, Yasir. It’s been a pleasure. And yes we are ready to build a permanent presence in Riyadh if that other work comes through. As you say, “you commit to the project and you commit to the country” — couldn’t have put it better myself. Rutherford

Find me on Strava, KoM Sydenham Hill, PR Al Jubailah/Bawdah Loop — 58 mins

WhatsApp to Stephen: We are going to have to open in Riyadh if we want the tourism contract. The PIF is fed up with firms taking their cash and basing in Dubai or Bahrain.

WhatsApp to all@Monkwell: Very excited to announce our new Riyadh office. We are looking for staff who want the adventure, promotion and a tax-free salary bump. 

WhatsApp to Chris: Sorry, you can’t commute from Bahrain. This is the next frontier and we have to commit. If you want to score you have to be on the pitch. Did you see the Neymar spread in Hello magazine? The lifestyle is amazing for young, conservatively dressed families. 

WhatsApp to Stephen: No volunteers! Do you think making this a VP-role would improve Saudi’s human rights record? 

WhatsApp to George: George. Good news. I’ve been mulling your arguments for not coming into the London office. I think I’ve found a way to meet your request for remote working.

Messages recovered by Robert Shrimsley

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