A monumental flop! Saudi Pro League figures revealed


By: Manu Tournoux

Cristiano Ronaldo was wrong to believe that the Saudi Pro League would soon overtake its European counterparts to become a major force in world football.

Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr at the end of 2022 after being released by mutual consent from Manchester United. Since joining the Gulf league, he has been convinced that the Pro League is about to explode. Last summer, he indicated that the championship he spearheads is quickly catching up with the big five in Europe.

“European football has lost a lot of quality. The only one that remains valid and is doing well is the English Premier League. It’s a step ahead of all the other leagues.”, did he declare. Ronaldo reiterated this claim in January, when he said at the Globe Soccer Awards that the Saudi Pro League was already “better” than Ligue 1, where his rival Lionel Messi spent two years at PSG before joining Inter Miami in MLS.

Benzema not happy

The Saudi Pro League has spent lavishly to attract some of football’s biggest names, including Ronaldo and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, but it is facing problems. On the one hand, several European players are not satisfied. Benzema spent weeks demanding a transfer, Jordan Henderson lasted less than six months before fleeing to Ajax and Aymeric Laporte made a damning admission that many players wanted to leave, although he later distanced from these quotes.

However, it is important to note that interest from abroad has not followed. The Saudi Pro League is not on television in the UK, its rights were sold for just 60,000 euros (yes, sixty thousand) to Marca in Spain, which no longer gives importance to its highlights, and the figures from France show how embarrassing the situation is.

A huge financial black hole

On March 1, only 5,000 viewers followed the clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad on Canal+. And this, despite the presence of N’Golo Kanté, Fabinho, Kalidou Koulibaly, Yassine Bounou and many others.

The Team puts this into damning perspective. More than six times as many people watched the third division match between Rouen and Sochaux at the same time. The French newspaper reports that a spokesperson for the Saudi Pro League says obtaining accurate viewing figures for the league is a “significant challenge” and has asked it to “treat the subject in a positive manner.”

60,000 euros in Spain

LaLiga president Javier Tebas highlighted this in January: “In terms of audiovisual rights, in the United States we don’t see the Saudi Pro League; in Africa, we do not see it; in Spain it was sold, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and all the rest, for the fantastic sum of 60,000 euros.

The stadium of Al-Ittihad, defending champions, is often two-thirds empty. So it appears that the Saudi Pro League is as unappealing to local viewers as it is to locals in the country. Perhaps its only salvation lies in the fact that those who fund the league have almost infinite wealth to pour into what is currently a massive financial black hole.

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