Saudi sports

New era for Saudi Pro League sees unprecedented growth, global fan engagement

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The Saudi Pro League’s new era has witnessed an unprecedented impact in broadcasting revenue, digital growth, and global fan engagement, data shows.

The introduction of world class international talent to the league in the first few months of the 2023/2024 season has recorded significant engagement among both local and international fans, the SPL said in a statement.


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Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Al Nassr. (Supplied)
Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Al Nassr. (Supplied)

Through the newly launched Player Acquisition Centre of Excellence (PACE), 152 players from 47 different countries were signed – forming 29.1 percent of the player pool in the SPL.

Some of the most popular signings included Neymar, Karim Benzema, and Roberto Firmino, all of whom have joined alongside five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Neymar Jr. (Supplied)
Neymar Jr. (Supplied)

Following six rounds of games ahead of the international break, attendance figures stood at a total of 440,003 across the stadiums, according to the SPL. This is a 25 percent increase on last year’s attendances for the same period.

Integrating talent

The new foreign players have integrated with members of Saudi Arabia’s national team, including the Under-23 squad who won the 2022 AFC U23 Asian Cup.

“The Saudi Pro League has undergone a rapid and unprecedented transformation this season, where we have seen 94 players bought from around the world providing a centralized approach to governance, transfers, squad mapping and player care,” Michael Emenalo, Saudi Pro League Director of Football, said.

“It’s also allowed us to help to create clear developmental pathways for Saudi youth while also giving them immediate playing opportunities.”

The efforts to recruit top international talent are all part of the SPL and Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s (SAFF) strategy to foster and develop local young talent alongside the best international players with the aim of increasing the league’s competitiveness on and off the pitch while ensuring a sustainable future.

“This is an exciting time for fans of football in Saudi Arabia. We are witnessing something very special. The combination of international stars and young Saudi talent is generating genuine excitement on and off the pitch, and also raising standards to the highest possible level among our own player pool in Saudi,” Carlo Nohra, the Chief Operating Officer of the Saudi Pro League said:

The results are evident in the data, the SPL said in a statement.

Promising stats

The weekly average number of goals recorded throughout the first six weeks of the matches increased by 26.3 percent to 27.1, compared to 17 goals per week for the same period last term.

On the pitch success has also aided off the pitch growth and the league’s ambitions across commercial, broadcast, and digital channels.

Karim Benzema. (Supplied)
Karim Benzema. (Supplied)

There has been significant interest from local, regional, and global brands which is expected to see the number of sponsors grow by approximately 75 percent this season, the statement continued.

This would result in the SPL becoming the globe’s third most profitable league in terms of sponsorship revenue.

“The raised levels of interest in the Roshn Saudi League (Saudi Pro League), both by football fans in the Kingdom and around the world, and in terms of the unprecedented number of potential global sponsorship opportunities, are clear evidence that the strategy is starting to work,” COO Nohra said.

Meanwhile, around the world, sports fans have been able to tune in to the new season because of the network of international broadcast deals through 38 broadcasters.

The league has deals across 140 territories with matches shown live on DAZN in multiple markets - Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, and the UK - as well as major European broadcasters including Canal+ (France), Sport TV (Portugal), La 7 (Italy), (Spain) and Cosmote (Greece).

These high-profile broadcast deals have caused a major uptick in engagement with football fans around the globe, and increased league revenue by 650 percent, which the SPL has said is clear evidence of the league’s successful transformation strategy.

“We have a more competitive product, on and off the pitch, and we are moving to the next level in both areas, in line with our strategy. The next phase for us on this wonderful journey will be building infrastructure and developing the league further off the pitch, while ensuring we have a world-class product that engages and excites on the pitch,” Nohra said.

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