New era for Roshn Saudi League with more fans and more goals resulting in growth, engagement and entertainment worldwide

Update New era for Roshn Saudi League with more fans and more goals resulting in growth, engagement and entertainment worldwide
Al-Hilal’s Brazilian forward Neymar during the Saudi Pro League football match between Al-Hilal and Al-Riyadh at Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on Sept.15. (AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2023
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New era for Roshn Saudi League with more fans and more goals resulting in growth, engagement and entertainment worldwide

New era for Roshn Saudi League with more fans and more goals resulting in growth, engagement and entertainment worldwide
  • 26.3 percent more goals each week from younger squads help increase live matchday attendance by 25 percent in first six weeks of the season
  • 94 leading international players secured in registration window through new centralized approach to transfers and governance

RIYADH: In a new era for the Roshn Saudi League — Saudi Pro League — there has been considerable impact following the first month of the new 2023/24 season.

The introduction of world-class international talent to the league has resulted in significant engagement across local and international fans, increases in match-day attendance — as well as a rise in broadcasting revenue and digital growth.

After the six rounds of fixtures already completed ahead of the international break, attendance figures show a total of 440,003 across the stadiums, with a 25 percent increase on last year’s attendances for the same period, a study by the Saudi Pro League has revealed.

There is real evidence of growth on the pitch this season, with marquee signings such as Neymar, Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino and many more in a highly competitive league alongside five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

With 94 overseas signings made this season through the newly launched Player Acquisition Center of Excellence, there are now 152 players from 47 different countries forming 29.1 percent of the player pool in the SPL. The new signings are integrating with Saudi Arabia national team players, including the successful Under-23 squad who won the 2022 AFC U23 Asian Cup.

This forms part of the SPL and Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s strategy to foster and develop local young talent alongside the best international players, as part of a drive to increase competitiveness on and off the pitch while ensuring a sustainable future.

The average age of players so far this season has been reduced by two years, falling from an average of 29-years-old to 27-years-old, across international and domestic players.

Results such as Al-Hilal’s thrilling 4-3 victory at Al-Ittihad, after trailing 3-1 in the Saudi El Clasico, also offer compelling evidence of an exciting product showcased globally. This was further reinforced by a goals average that has increased by 26.3 percent to 27.1 per week for the first six weeks of the fixtures, compared to 17 goals per week for the same period last term.

Saudi Pro League Director of Football Michael Emenalo said: “The Saudi Pro League has undergone a rapid and unprecedented transformation this season, where we have seen 94 players bought from around the world providing a centralized approach to governance, transfers, squad mapping and player care. It’s also allowed us to help to create clear developmental pathways for Saudi youth while also giving them immediate playing opportunities.”

On-the-pitch success has also aided off-the-pitch growth and the league’s ambitions across commercial, broadcast and digital channels.

There has been significant interest from local, regional and global brands, which will see the number of sponsors grow by about 75 percent this season, which would result in the SPL becoming the globe’s third most profitable league in sponsorship revenue.

Around the world, sports fans have engaged with the new season thanks to the network of international broadcast deals through 38 broadcasters. The league has deals across 140 territories with matches shown live on DAZN in multiple markets — Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany and the UK — as well as major European broadcasters including Canal+ (France), Sport TV (Portugal), La 7 (Italy), Marca.com (Spain) and Cosmote (Greece).

These high-profile broadcast deals have caused a big increase in engagement with football fans around the world, and also increased league revenue by 650 percent, evidence of the SPL’s successful transformation strategy to grow revenue for league and clubs while increasing the commercial value of the league and attracting investors.

The leading international top 10 players across social media have combined connections of 1.5 billion — with 40 percent of that audience aged between 18-24 as the league reaches younger, more global, audiences.

While attendance and viewing figures are on the rise, there is further evidence of an increased interest in the Roshn Saudi League across younger audiences, with an organic growth of 1.5 million new social media followers across platforms including Instagram, Facebook, TikTok Snapchat and X, and data showing more than 150 million video views so far this season across all platforms.

Highlighting the international appeal of Saudi football, a newly launched official English Instagram account has attracted more than 200,000 followers in just a number of weeks, while Brazil, KSA, Morocco and Egypt have the highest number of followers per country.

Carlo Nohra, chief operating officer of the Saudi Pro League, said: “This is an exciting time for fans of football in Saudi, we are witnessing something very special. The combination of international stars and young Saudi talent is generating genuine excitement on and off the pitch, and also raising standards to the highest possible level among our own player pool in Saudi.

“The raised levels of interest in the Roshn Saudi League, both by football fans in the Kingdom and around the world, and in terms of the unprecedented number of potential global sponsorship opportunities, are clear evidence that the strategy is starting to work.

“We have a more competitive product, on and off the pitch, and we are moving to the next level in both areas, in line with our strategy. The next phase for us on this wonderful journey will be building infrastructure and developing the league further off the pitch, while ensuring we have a world-class product that engages and excites on the pitch,” he said.


Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Updated 41 sec ago
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Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

PARIS: French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP.
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts, and of conspiring to extort, or attempt to extort, funds to finance a terrorist organistion between 2020 and 2024, the PNAT said.
Investigators believe the eight to be connected to a campaign to collect funds from Kurdish business people and other Kurds in France, a source close to the case added.
Police can hold the suspects for up to 96 hours for questioning, the source said.
Another source said the funds were destined for use in Belgium, where police on Monday raided Kurdish-run media as part of a probe undertaken at the request of a French anti-terror judge, the PNAT said.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority of Turkiye in the southeast of the country, in a standoff with the Ankara government that remains unresolved to this day.


French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP. (X/@WestHam)

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’
Updated 23 April 2024
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Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’
  • Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment
  • “The comments are a disgrace“

LONDON: Erik ten Hag says the media reaction to Manchester United’s performance in the FA Cup semifinal against Coventry was “a disgrace,” robustly defending his side’s achievement in reaching a second straight final.
United surrendered a 3-0 lead at Wembley on Sunday and were saved from a humiliating exit in extra time only by a VAR intervention, which ruled out a goal for offside in the final moments.
They eventually scraped through against the Championship side on penalties to set up a re-match of last year’s final against City.
Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment.
But he has been widely criticized, adding to speculation he is on borrowed time at Old Trafford.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said the performance would “cement his sacking.”
But Ten Hag was in defiant mood on the eve of United’s Premier League match against bottom side Sheffield United on Wednesday.
“You asked the question: ‘Is it embarrassing?’ No, the reaction from you was embarrassing,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“It is the comments. Top football is about results. We made it to a final and we deserved it not only by this game but also the other games.
“We lost control for 20 minutes, we also had bad luck, 3-2, 3-3. We were very lucky in the end, it is clear. Penalties was very good and we made it to the final, it is a huge achievement. Twice, in two years, is magnificent. For me as a manager, four cup finals in four years.
“The comments are a disgrace.”
United, winless in their past four Premier League games, are in danger of missing out on a European spot next season after a poor campaign.
They are already realistically out of the race to qualify for the lucrative Champions League but still have the Europa League and the Europa Conference League to aim for.
“We have to win every game, we know that,” said Ten Hag. “That’s what United stands for and that is our approach, go from game to game but we have to qualify for Europe and we now have two opportunities — in the league and the FA Cup final.”
Ten Hag said he would work closely with newly appointed technical director Jason Wilcox to determine the future direction of the club.
Wilcox, 53, has left second-tier Southampton to take up the job at Old Trafford with immediate effect.
“We have to form a partnership, which is very important,” said Ten Hag. “We are a little bit behind in the process so we have to catch up and we will go and speed up the process.”


AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience

AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience
Updated 23 April 2024
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AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience

AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience
  • Tickets to major heritage event available online
  • The camel racing spectacular runs from April 24-27

AlUla: The AlUla Camel Cup, considered the pinnacle of camel racing in the region, promises an exhilarating spectacle for sports aficionados and cultural enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and the world.

Organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla in partnership with the Saudi Camel Racing Federation, the event will provide a celebration of sport, culture and entertainment.

In addition to the camel racing, there will be static and mobile displays and acts that celebrate AlUla’s heritage and Saudi Arabia’s artistic legacy, including music and performances that highlight the historical significance of the camel in local culture.

Workshops for adults throughout the day will cover calligraphy, traditional pottery making, incense crafting and Sadu weaving, providing hands-on learning experiences for visitors. Children, meanwhile, will enjoy a range of educational and creative activities, from camel origami and clay modeling to an augmented reality scanner that animates drawings.

Additional attractions include camel riding, a Light Brite experience where guests can try their hand at face painting, and a calligraphy light show after sunset. Visitors can also indulge in a traditional Saudi Arabian coffee roasting and tasting session.

Culinary delights from various cuisines will be available at pop-up stalls, while the retail experience will feature regional brands offering an array of products, including camel-themed streetwear, souvenirs and artisanal items reflecting AlUla’s heritage.

The event will also host the AlUla Design Award Ceremony on Friday, where the winning camel covers will be displayed in the Heritage Village.

Rami AlMoallim, vice president of destination management and marketing at the commission, said: “As the second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup draws closer, we warmly invite sports and culture enthusiasts from around the globe to join us for an experience unlike any other. This event exemplifies RCU’s commitment to sporting excellence infused with cultural depth, reflecting both our rich Saudi heritage and our forward-looking vision for AlUla.

“We are gearing up to deliver an unparalleled celebration of the ancient sport that is camel racing, set against the breathtaking backdrop of this oasis city that will resonate with fans and families alike. We look forward to welcoming guests to experience in person this culmination of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural landscape and sports innovation.”

The event, being staged at the Mughayra Heritage Sports Village, will feature the region’s fastest camels and most skilled jockeys, promising several rounds of top-tier competition.

The inaugural Camel Cup last year drew thousands of visitors and this year promises an even more significant experience because 2024 is the Year of the Camel, celebrating the animal’s status in Saudi culture and society.

Ticket prices start at SR50 ($13). For bookings and further information, visit experiencealula.com.


Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers

Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers
Updated 23 April 2024
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Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers

Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers
  • The drama in Denver followed a scintillating comeback by the New York Knicks, who scored eight points in the final half-minute to stun the Philadelphia 76ers
  • Embiid was dejected but defiant, telling reporters: “We should be 2-0“

LOS ANGELES: Jamal Murray fired the game-winner at the buzzer as the NBA champion Denver Nuggets erased a 20-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 on Monday and take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

The drama in Denver followed a scintillating comeback by the New York Knicks, who scored eight points in the final half-minute to stun the Philadelphia 76ers 104-101 for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference set.

Nikola Jokic delivered a triple-double of 27 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for Denver and Murray broke out of his shooting doldrums, with 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets notched their 10th straight win over LeBron James and the Lakers, a run of dominance that includes Denver’s sweep in last season’s Western Conference finals.

The Lakers, led by the 32 points and 11 rebounds of Anthony Davis, were in control for most of the night, pushing a 59-44 halftime lead to 20 points early in the third quarter.

James scored 26 points and handed out 12 assists, but the Nuggets kept chipping away and tied it at 95-95 on Michael Porter Jr’s basket with 1:15 remaining.

James put the Lakers up 99-97 with a driving layup but Murray tied it again with a step-back jumper with 30 seconds remaining.

After James missed a three-point attempt, Murray rose over Davis and connected on a fall-away jumper with four-tenths of a second left.

“I told my teammates when I was struggling, I’m gonna look for y’all,” Murray told broadcaster TNT. “And every single one of them told me to keep shooting, keep shooting.

“They just told me to stay aggressive and keep looking for it, keep hunting it. I had the ball with a few seconds left and I knew once I made a couple, the next one should go down as well.

“I just beat him to my spot and elevated, went through my shot,” he said. “I’m thankful enough that that was one of the few that went down for me.

It was a similar story in New York, where the Knicks took the lead over the Sixers for the first time in the third quarter.

Philadelphia’s NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid was clearly hindered late by pain in his surgically repaired left knee, but the Sixers appeared to have regained control when Tyrese Maxey, fed by Embiid, made a three-pointer with 1:09 to play that put the Sixers up 100-96.

But Jalen Brunson’s three-pointer with 27.4 seconds left pulled the Knicks within two points and after Josh Hart came up with a steal, Donte DiVincenzo capped a chaotic possession with a three-pointer — after missing his first attempt — to put the Knicks up 102-101.

OG Anunoby sealed it at an ecstatic Madison Square Garden with a pair of free throws.

It was a crushing defeat for Philadelphia, who were up by five with less than a minute to play.

The 76ers were furious that officials failed to respond to their calls for a time-out in the critical seconds, Embiid adding a jab over missed foul calls.

“That’s unacceptable to put us in that situation,” Embiid said. “Everybody on the floor was trying to call time-out... but they didn’t give it to us.

“But forget about the time-out, there’s a bunch of fouls .... that’s unacceptable.

“We’re going to win this series,” he added. “We’re the better team and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Brunson finished with 24 points despite connecting on just eight of 29 shots from the field. He added eight rebounds and six assists and Hart added 21 points and 15 rebounds for New York.

The series shifts to Philadelphia on Thursday.

Maxey, who skipped the Sixers’ morning shoot-around because of illness, finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Embiid added 34 points and 10 rebounds but missed a three-pointer at the final buzzer.

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers cruised to a 96-86 victory over the Orlando Magic, their second straight wire-to-wire victory giving them a 2-0 series lead.

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 20 rebounds for the Cavs.

Paolo Banchero led Orlando’s scoring with 21 points and Franz Wagner added 18. The youthful Magic will be hoping to turn things around when the series shifts to Orlando.


Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 23 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • The 2-1 reverse sees the Green Falcons finish second in Group C of tournament that is also a qualifying competition for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Monday night at Khalifa International Stadium in Al-Rayyan as both teams secured their spots in the last eight of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Saudi Arabia entered the match as leaders of Group C with a maximum of six points from two matches. But the reverse sees them drop to second in the final standings, with Iraq — also on six points — taking top spot with a superior head-to-head record.

With three points apiece, Tajikistan and Thailand finished third and fourth respectively and were eliminated from the competition.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Iraq took the lead one minute into first-half stoppage time through an Ali Jasim penalty but there was still time for Saudi Arabia to equalize nine minutes later with a spot kick converted by Ahmed Al-Ghamdi.

Iraq secured the win thanks to Mustafa Saadoun’s winner on 63 minutes.

Monday also saw the conclusion of Group B with South Korea beating Japan 1-0 and China overcoming the UAE 2-1.

South Korea and Japan had qualified from the group ahead of the final round of matches.

Tuesday will see the final round of Group D matches, with Uzbekistan and Vietnam already guaranteeing their progress to the last eight as they sit on six points apiece.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification to the Olympic Games.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.