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Friday, July 12, 2024

Saudi Soccer Spending Not Slowing Down, U.K. Broadcast Deal Expected

  • “I don’t see this slowing down” Saudi Pro League exec Peter Hutton says amid recent bids for Messi, Mbappe.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season in Saudi Arabia got SPL broadcasts into 170 territories, Hutton expects U.K. deal next season.
“I don’t see this slowing down” Saudi league exec Peter Hutton says amid recent bids for Messi, Mbappe.
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Saudi Arabia has already lured European stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Jordan Henderson, and Karim Benzema, and has no plans to slow down its spending spree to turn the Saudi Pro League into a premier soccer destination.

“I think the budgets are in place for a number of years, I don’t see this slowing down,” Saudi Pro League board member Peter Hutton told the BBC. “I’ve worked in sport for 40 years and I’ve never seen a project as big, as ambitious and as determined to be a success.”

Hutton was previously the Head of Sports at Meta (formerly Facebook) and CEO of Eurosport, and held other executive roles at ESPN and IMG. Since the sports media veteran joined the Saudi Pro League in January, the league has made unsuccessful record-breaking offers for global stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe — posing a threat to even the highest-spending European leagues. 

“The investment from Saudi is remarkable. It’s certainly been a big acceleration,” Hutton said. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that Europe isn’t going to be as strong in world football going forward. But I would say that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good that football has strength around the world.”

Ronaldo’s reported $220 million per year deal with Al Nassr was the first domino to fall for the Saudi Pro League, which is bankrolled by the government’s Public Investment Fund. Fellow former Real Madrid star Benzema then signed a three-year deal with Al-Ittihad in June while former Liverpool and English National Team star Henderson joined Al Ettifaq last month as Saudi’s latest import.  

“When Ronaldo signed for Al Nassr we suddenly had this interest from international broadcasters. Last year, we ended up in over 170 territories once Ronaldo signed,” Hutton said. “It’s clearly something that’s caught the imagination of broadcasters worldwide and that’s been a really positive sign. I’d be confident we’ll get a broadcast deal in the UK for this coming season,” he added. “It’s just important to see year-by-year increases and certainly the gates are up, TV revenues are up, sponsorship is up. I don’t see why that should slow down”

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