The Saudi Pro League spent nearly $1 billion on player transfers this summer and signaled lofty ambitions that include playing in the UEFA Champions League — but the controversial competition has plenty of work to do to reach its goals.
A little more than a month into its season, SPL matches are averaging 8,500 fans per game, a 24% increase from last year’s attendance, but much lower than the 40,000 the Premier League averaged last season — the only competition to outspend the SPL in this summer’s transfer window.
This season, the SPL has a variety of media deals across the globe with companies like Fox Sports in the U.S., as well as a U.K. deal with DAZN reportedly worth $500,000. The EPL is bringing in more than $3 billion annually from its media rights deals.
This week, four SPL clubs began group play in the Asian Champions League — which will award its winning club $4 million. Last season, Manchester City netted $22 million for winning the UEFA Champions League.
While the SPL clubs backed by Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion-plus Public Investment Fund don’t necessarily need an influx of prize money, media rights fees, or ticket sales right now, the revenue gap between the Saudi league and its European counterparts couldn’t be clearer.
Despite its vast wealth, Saudi Arabia has still sought support for European officials in its bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.