The exciting potential of the Roshn Saudi League was one of the central themes of the World Football Summit Asia 2023 which took place in Jeddah on the 12th and 13th of December.
Addressing the attendees at the opening ceremony of the event, Dato’ Windsor John, General Secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) lauded the ambitions of the Saudi leadership and its impact on the football scene.
“I think we can all agree that rarely have we witnessed a single nation undertake such bold ambitions to develop the beautiful game in such a short span of time,” said Dato’ Windsor.
“We, at the AFC, applaud the Saudi Arabian leadership for harnessing and believing in the power of football to unify and uplift a nation.”
SPL Chief Operating Officer Carlo Nohra discussed his expectation for the league by the time the 2034 FIFA World Cup rolls around, emphasising the importance of sustainability for the success of that vision.
“We hope to be far evolved from where we are today in ten years’ time. With the ambition and aspirations that we have, we want to be much higher up the league rankings, but most importantly to be one of the most entertaining leagues that are watched all over the world.
“We want to deliver a league and a set of players that can make the country proud, but it also sets us up for the next 50 years, so it’s important that we build a sustainable property that serves us well beyond the world cup.”
Moderating the panel, titled ‘Making it happen: A strategic insight into the arrival & impact of megastars in Saudi Arabia’, Andy Jackson, VP Global Football Partnerships at Footballco cited a 6000% increase in consumption of Roshn Saudi League content on Footballco’s flagship platform Goal.com as evidence of the rapid growth of the competition, something Nohra explained as a function of the popularity of players being recruited to Saudi Arabia.
“It works in our favour at the moment because players bring their audience and that is part of our strategy. It’s absolutely imperative that we recognize how we can reach audiences today. The traditional model has changed, and we recognise that we can multiply the reach of our product immeasurably through those audiences that come with the players. I cannot emphasise how important has it been for us to reach not only the core football fans but a wider audience.
“Football is no longer just about the 90 minutes. We have to fill in the gap in between by creating content that appeals to a wider audience. We want to reach to the furthest person out who has no interest in football but are interested in the player and their lifestyle.”
Spearheading the players who attract audiences from well beyond the hardcore football fans is Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed human on Instagram with 615 million followers. Speaking at the ‘Saudi Arabia 2034: Football's revolutionary moment in time’, SPL Chief Football Executive Michael Emenalo viewed the arrival of Ronaldo and subsequent marquee signings as a building stone for the next step of the league’s growth.
“There is no doubt that Ronaldo was the groundbreaker in terms of increasing the quality of the league. He was already here when I came in. I would like to mention the arrival of Karim Benzema, who was the Ballon d’Or holder at the time of signing, was instrumental. I think all those players who have committed to come to the league are players with vetted qualities and capabilities.
“We try to explain what the league is all about and to make the initial impact as strong as possible and I think we’ve accomplished that. The next step is to professionalize other aspects including infrastructure, facilities, academies, youth development.”
The immense commercial potential of the Roshn Saudi League was highlighted on the second day of WFS 2023 as SPL Commercial Director Maximilian Haschke was joined by representatives of RSL sponsors Half Million and noon in a panel titled ‘Revolutionizing Fan Engagement: Saudi Pro League's strategic partnerships take the next step’.
“We have a strong domestic industry and SPL is a platform that can help extend its visibility to the global stage,” explained Haschke.
“For international companies, you can capitalise on the most beloved sport in the kingdom and get access to a booming country with a growing population with 20 million people under the age of 30 which is for businesses coming here is an attractive opportunity.
“We want to have partners on our side to innovate new ideas that could possibly be difficult to implement in older, more traditional leagues.
“Over the past six months, we have become the number three league in the world in terms of commercial revenue, overtaking the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 already. The matches are now being seen by double the audiences in our region and are visible in over 160 countries.”