Saudi football clubs gear up for another transfer market spree

Lea Hogg 1 month ago
Saudi football clubs gear up for another transfer market spree

Saudi football clubs are set to make a return to the transfer market, following last year’s €800 million spending spree. This move is part of Riyadh’s long-term commitment to the sport, according to Saad Al Lazeez, vice-chair of the Saudi Pro League.

Long-term investment in football

Al Lazeez, speaking at the Financial Times’ Business of Football Summit, emphasized that this is a long-term investment. “We are not in it for a season,” he said. The kingdom’s aim is to pump money into football as part of a broader strategy to diversify the economy.

Last year, clubs from the Gulf kingdom sent shockwaves through global football when they spent more than €800 million on new players, including stars such as Brazilian forward Neymar and Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves. They joined Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed man on Instagram, who signed for Al Nassr in January last year.

The spending spree followed a move in June to hand control of four top clubs to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which has bankrolled some of the country’s other forays into sport such as LIV Golf. However, Saudi clubs were quiet in the January window, as tighter spending rules in Europe sent a chill through the market.

Saudi authorities have made their ambitions in football clear, with a desire to make the domestic league one of the top five in the world. The country is also set to host the 2034 men’s World Cup after emerging as the sole bidder for the tournament.

Al Lazeez said the Saudi Pro League’s rapid transformation had already been “highlighted by player acquisitions” last summer and that this approach would continue “in the upcoming windows”. He also said another batch of clubs was set to be privatised before the end of the season in May, potentially bringing in fresh capital to teams that were not active in the transfer market last year.

The arrival of several big stars, including former Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and ex-Premier League player of the season N’Golo Kante, has helped the Saudi league to sell its broadcast rights to a global audience. However, the league has struggled at times with low attendances. The average number of fans going to games this season is just over 8,000, lower than the third tier of English football.

Al Lazeez acknowledged that poor turnout was a “huge area for improvement” and that “viewership and attendance is the name of the game”. When asked about the large pay packets being offered to players to bring them to the Saudi league, Al Lazeez said the numbers would eventually justify themselves, adding: “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Impact on sportsbetting

The return of Saudi football clubs to the transfer market, following last year’s €800 million spending spree, could have significant implications for the sports betting sector. The acquisition of high-profile players can increase global interest in the Saudi Pro League, leading to more people betting on these matches and boosting the sports betting market. The aggressive transfer and spending strategy of the Saudi Pro League could disrupt the traditional dynamics of player transfers, leading to a re-evaluation of player values and contract negotiations worldwide, potentially affecting betting odds and strategies. European clubs have expressed concerns about the huge transfer fees agreed with Saudi Arabian clubs and are seeking guarantees that they will be paid in full.

Any changes in regulations or payment assurances could impact the financial dynamics of the sport and, by extension, the sports betting sector. The influx of star players into the Saudi Pro League could create new betting opportunities, such as bets on the performance of these players and their impact on the team’s success. While the exact impact will depend on various factors, including regulatory changes and the performance of the transferred players, the Saudi clubs’ transfer market activities are likely to influence the sports betting sector in multiple ways. It’s an evolving situation that stakeholders in the sports betting industry will be watching closely.

————-Stop Press: The next SiGMA Africa Summit takes place in Cape Town between 11-13 March !  SiGMA Africa event kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa on the 11 March. Building on the success of its inaugural edition in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2023, SiGMA Group recognizes the need to foster collaboration and innovation within the industry.

Share it :

Recommended for you
Jenny Ortiz
15 hours ago
Jenny Ortiz
18 hours ago
Lea Hogg
1 day ago