Saudi Arabia’s top-flight has endured a well-documented struggle with attendances, particularly beyond the historically more successful teams in the nation’s Pro League.
Backed by Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas-rich sovereign wealth fund, the leading four clubs combined over the summer window for a total expenditure of over £700m.
In spite of luring some of Europe’s most renowned footballing names – young and old – by offering lucrative proposals, their attempts to boost the profile of the Saudi Pro League have so far been in vain if average attendances are anything to go by.
With average spectatorship fairly low even in the upper echelons of the division, Safe Betting Sites have collated attendance data from English football’s third tier to see how it holds up against a league with a total value of €1.07bn.
Derby County Average A Higher Attendance than 17 Saudi Pro League Clubs
Even as far down as the fourth tier of the English football pyramid, attendances can sometimes reach highs of 20,000.
Of course, the tier system in England existed long before the Saudi Pro League – about 88 years separate the founding of the two – and as such their profiles are likely to differ.
However, it is interesting to note from looking at the data Safe Betting Sites have gathered, even League One’s average attendance is higher than Saudi Arabia’s top-flight equivalent.
Below we have also compared the highest and lowest individual club attendances in each league, with Asia’s most decorated club Al-Hilal just edging ahead one of English football’s 12 founding members, Derby County.
- Highest Saudi Pro League average: Al-Hilal (27,148)
- Lowest Saudi Pro League average: Abha Club (1,718)
- Highest League One average: Derby County (26,339)
- Lowest League One average: Fleetwood Town (3,178)
SPL Clubs Spent €6,000 Per Fan On Summer Transfers, PL €3,000 Per Fan
As already mentioned, the spending power of the Saudi Pro League is startling.
Propped up by a bottomless supply of money and a stubborn willingness to transform Saudi into a footballing superpower, the most recent summer window was an eye-opening flex of their financial muscles.
The league’s total expenditure amounted to €946,877,538, which dwarfs that of League One’s which stood at little under a million.
The Saudi Pro League are therefore spending around €6,108 euros per match-going fan when taking into account their total transfer expenses, which is almost double that of the biggest league in the world – the Premier League – whose expenditure equates to around €3,656 per fan.
Jordan Henderson On Show To Less Fans Than 19th Placed Bradford City In League Two
Jordan Henderson’s somewhat surprising decision to swap one of football’s most iconic clubs for Saudi has been met with a largely comical reception.
Not least when lining up for Al Ettifaq in a 1-0 defeat away against Al-Riyadh in October – a match attended by just 700 fans. For context, select non-league games in England often yield 1,000 spectators or more.
Even when stepping out onto the pitch at Al Ettifaq’s home ground, Henderson is typically playing in front of an average of 7,910 fans.
Bradford City, who currently sit in 19th place in League Two, boast an average attendance over twice as large as that this season (16,488).
Safe Betting Sites Commentary
Speaking on the comparisons between the Saudi Pro League and England’s lower divisions, betting expert Neil Roarty said: “For those players who succumbed to the riches of the Pro League in the summer, the stark reality of empty stadiums and a general disinterest in football is likely to feel slightly uncomfortable.
“Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the sport’s greatest ever goalscorer, could have moved to Bolton Wanderers instead of Al-Nassr; there he would’ve played in front of more fans week-in-week-out.
“The unprecedented level of spending we saw is just the start of a hugely ambitious push from Saudi Arabia. The successful World Cup bid for 2034 is a major coup in their attempts to disrupt the usual order of things, and it will be interesting to cast an eye on the development of the sport over the next decade.”