Saudi Pro League yet to secure UK TV deal as broadcaster declares no interest

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Saudi Pro League yet to secure UK TV deal as broadcaster declares no interest
Saudi Pro League yet to secure UK TV deal as broadcaster declares no interest

The upstart Saudi Pro League is yet to agree a UK broadcasting deal one week out from the beginning of a season that will feature some of the sport’s biggest names.

In June the SPL enlisted IMG to source international broadcast contracts but, seven days before Al Ahli host Al Hazm in the curtain raiser, no official bid has been received from a British broadcaster.

Sky Sports showed games involving Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr on their YouTube channel last season but the viewership figures were considered unimpressive. They could again make an offer for rights in the coming days and exploratory discussions have taken place.

But senior executives at TNT, previously known as BT Sport, last month indicated that they were not interested in showing the SPL.

Should no deal be agreed, interested viewers will be able to stream games via the Saudi platform, Shahid, with a subscription that costs £15.49 per month.

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IMG have brokered deals across much of Europe, including with RMC Sport in France, Sport TV in Ronaldo’s home country Portugal and Sportitalia in Italy. Prior to Ronaldo’s arrival the Saudi league’s only TV contract was with domestic broadcasters.

Sources say the rights are being sold at the lower end of the spectrum but the Saudi priority is on exposure rather than revenues.

Saudi clubs have spent about half a billion pounds on transfer fees this summer with reigning Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Jordan Henderson among the names to have accepted huge pay deals.

To date 10 players have moved from Premier League clubs with further deals expected in the coming weeks. The splurge has come after four of the SPL’s biggest clubs were taken over by the state’s Public Investment Fund, which also owns Newcastle United.

But their arrival as a major financial player in the sport has not been universally admired and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was among those calling for change because he fears the Saudi transfer window, which stays open three weeks longer, could see Premier League sides lose players at a time when they will be unable to source replacements.

"It is massive, in the moment," Klopp said of Saudi Arabia's influence earlier this week. "Pretty much the worst thing I think is that the transfer window in Saudi Arabia is open three weeks longer.

"If I am right, I heard something like that, then at least in Europe that's not helpful. Uefa or Fifa must find solutions for that. But in the end, at this moment, I don't know exactly what will happen."

Alan Smith

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