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The Saudi Pro League, despite its financial resources and star-studded lineups, is grappling with a significant challenge — low attendance at matches. Very low.

While clubs have invested heavily in renowned players and managers from around the world, filling the stadiums on matchdays remains a struggle. In a recent game between Al-Wehda and Al-Khaleej, only 447 spectators turned up at Al-Wehda’s 38,000-capacity stadium, marking a near-record low for the season.

Transfer news: Arsenal agreement, Man Utd two-player swap deal, Man City done  deal | Football | Sport | Express.co.ukIt’s worth noting that neither Al-Wehda nor Al-Khaleej are backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and lack the household names that usually attract fans. However, this poor attendance highlights the magnitude of the task facing the Saudi Pro League.

Despite spending over $1bn on player transfers and managerial appointments during the summer, including big names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Neymar, N’Golo Kanté, Riyadh Mahrez, and Sadio Mané, the league continues to struggle to draw crowds.

The arrival of these high-profile players hasn’t had the desired impact on attendance figures. Football fanaticism cannot be bought or conjured up overnight. The novelty of seeing world-class footballers wears off when fans consider the context of the matches they’re playing in. Saudi Arabian fans have had extensive access to these players through televised matches for many years, reducing the allure of seeing them live.

Even clubs with star-studded lineups like Al-Hilal, boasting players such as Neymar, Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, struggle to sell more than a third of their available tickets on matchdays. Similarly, Al-Ittihad, with Benzema, Kanté, and Fabinho in their squad, also face low sales records.

The Saudi Pro League faces the challenge of building a passionate and dedicated fan base that supports the teams regardless of the players on the field. Football fanaticism is deeply rooted in history, tradition, and emotional connections to the club. It takes time to cultivate this kind of loyalty and engagement among supporters.

Currently, half of the teams in the Saudi Pro League have average attendance figures below 5,000, according to Transfermarkt. Moreover, the number of matches attended by fewer than 1,000 people has been increasing since September.

 

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