Despite Ronaldo's best efforts, French 3rd division still getting more viewers than Saudi Pro League

Al Ittihad vs Al Nassr | Imago

Despite Ronaldo's best efforts, French 3rd division still getting more viewers than Saudi Pro League

Ayoola Kelechi 22:31 - 09.03.2024

The Portuguese star recently asserted that the Saudi Pro League had better quality than the French Ligue 1 but those claims seem to be splitting at the seams

While the allure of star players like Cristiano Ronaldo may draw attention to the Saudi Pro League (SPL), the reality is that the league continues to struggle in terms of viewership, trailing far behind even lower-tier competitions in other countries.

Recent reports from L'Équipe reveal a stark contrast in viewership between the SPL and other football leagues. A midtable clash in the third division of French football attracted six times the viewership compared to one of the SPL's top fixtures, highlighting the challenges faced by the Saudi league in attracting a global audience.

Lacklustre Audience Figures

Despite the anticipation surrounding high-profile matches featuring renowned players like Kalidou Koulibaly and N'Golo Kanté, the SPL has failed to capture the attention of viewers on a significant scale. A recent top-of-the-table clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad garnered a mere 5000 viewers, raising concerns about the league's popularity and appeal.

Attempts to obtain accurate viewership data from broadcasters have proven futile, with no broadcaster across 130 territories willing to disclose audience figures. Even Canal+, one of the SPL's broadcasting partners, refrained from providing an assessment of its two-season deal, hinting at underlying issues with audience engagement.

Critics argue that the SPL's failure to differentiate itself from established European leagues has contributed to its struggles in attracting viewers. Cyril Linette, former sports director for Canal+, emphasizes the importance of playing the entertainment card and creating unique selling points to stand out in a competitive market.

Ronaldo's Impact and Stadium Attendance

While Ronaldo and other high-profile signings have brought attention to the SPL, stadium attendance remains underwhelming across the board. Only a handful of teams, such as Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal, have managed to maintain high attendance figures, with many stadiums operating at less than full capacity.

As the SPL grapples with challenges related to viewership and market penetration, doubts linger about its ability to break into European markets effectively. Without significant differentiation and innovation, the league may continue to struggle to compete with established footballing powerhouses.

Even with the star power of players like Cristiano Ronaldo and efforts to attract global attention, the Saudi Pro League faces an uphill battle in terms of viewership and market recognition. As discussions surrounding the league's future unfold, addressing underlying issues and implementing strategies for differentiation will be crucial in determining its long-term success in the competitive landscape of international football.

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