Saudi Pro League strike UK TV deal days before Cristiano Ronaldo's season opener

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All Saudi Pro League games, including those involving Cristiano Ronaldo
All Saudi Pro League games, including those involving Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr, will be shown live in the UK on DAZN. (Image: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

The Saudi Pro League has agreed a UK TV deal with DAZN that will see every game in the upstart competition streamed live - four days before the new season kicks off.

In June the SPL enlisted IMG to source international broadcast contracts but it had proven a hard sell in the UK despite the attraction of star names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante.

But, as first reported by the Mail, DAZN has now sealed an agreement to show the entire campaign, including Ronaldo’s Al Nassr lining up against Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson ’s Al Ettifiaq.

Sky Sports showed games involving Ronaldo’s Al Nassr on their YouTube channel last season but the viewership figures were considered unimpressive. Discussions had taken place over Sky potentially taking the rights this season again but no formal offer was made.

Meanwhile, senior executives at TNT, previously known as BT Sport, last month indicated that they were not interested in bidding for the SPL this year.

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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. DAZN will also show games in Germany. 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 close to half a billion pounds on transfer fees this summer with reigning Ballon d’Or winner Benzema, Kante and former Liverpool captain 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 last 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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