August 23 – The Saudi Professional League (SPL) kicked off last night with defending champions Al Nassr opening with a 2-0 win over Dhamk.
The 16-team league, ranked 12th according to the World League Forum, but sixth globally in terms of player market value, has set a target this season of breaking into the top 10 leagues worldwide.
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia (GSA), said: “It’s now time for the rest of the world to truly see the quality, energy and excitement of the Saudi Professional League.
“We’re committed to opening our doors to make the SPL more accessible for new markets and new fans – wherever they are in the world – to achieve our ambitious goals of breaking into the top 10 leagues in the world.
“Whether that’s continuing to grow attendances in-stadium, streaming the best live matches in growth territories or engaging the fanbase with innovative technology and premium content on our new digital channels.”
Saudi clubs are currently on a high, with three of the four quarter finalists in the Asian Champions League and the league last season reporting a 100% increase in attendances across the Kingdom to 2 million.
“The SPL enjoyed a successful partnership with STC last season but are now looking forward to announcing new partnerships with the league that will be announced imminently,” said a league spokesperson.
The new season sees a significant increase in the league’s media output, which will be watched closely, particularly in relation to the pirate broadcaster beoutQ that bases transmission in the kingdom and sells decoder boxes in the Saudi market. If beoutQ pirates the Saudi league – as can be expected as it steals all other major sports leagues and tournaments globally for the Saudio market – the reaction of the Saudi authorities to protect their own media rights could dictate the pirate channel’s future.
If beoutQ doesn’t pirate the rights the big question for everyone in the sports rights arena will be why?
The SPL’s broadcast rights are given exclusively free-to-air through the KSA Sports Channel in Saudi Arabia. In addition this season, for the first time, matches will also be streamed for free from anywhere in the world through the new GSA.Live streaming service.
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