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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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International Soccer Seasons Kicking Off Amid Economic Shift

  • Heavy financial outlay by Saudi Pro League creates new pressure
  • Development boom accelerates through the sport
English Premier League teams Leeds United and Brighton Hove & Albion in action during a match.
Premier League

Several international league soccer seasons begin Friday, with the Premier League, La Liga, and Ligue 1 all starting play, followed a week later by the Italian Serie A and the German Bundesliga. 

But the 2023-24 campaign kicks off amid a very different economic landscape, even from the end of last season.

The most drastic change is perhaps the revamped Saudi Pro League, which also starts play Friday and has used its extensive oil wealth to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contracts for European stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Jordan Henderson, and Karim Benzema — in addition to making record-breaking, ultimately unsuccessful offers for Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.

That ongoing ambition and financial largesse — and increased exposure thanks to a new slate of international media deals involving 130 territories — prompted Premier League CEO Richard Masters to acknowledge that the Saudi situation is requiring heightened monitoring.

“They have spent [$494 million] on 20-odd players, eight or nine of which have come from Premier League clubs. We are only at the start of something,” Masters said. “I have been asked if I’m concerned by that, and you know the answer — it’s something we have to keep an eye on.”

The sport’s rising financial pressures are also prompting widespread and unpopular ticket price increases, while giant clubs like Chelsea are scouting out potential investor capital.

Building Boom

The other major trend in international soccer lies in facility upgrades. 

Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, and Manchester City are among clubs with major stadium projects in progress, part of a broad industry push toward modernization and mixed-use development.

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