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Saudi Pro League’s 23/24 poor attendance, explained

Saudi Pro League's 23/24 poor attendance, explained

By importing some of the best players in the world (, Ronaldo, Benzema), you would think attendance would be up, way up! 

But the disparity in stadium attendance between those teams at the top and bottom of the Saudi Pro League table is vast. Perhaps too much so. Let's take a deeper look.

Disparities emerge in Saudi Pro League attendance figures

The Saudi Pro League broke attendance last Thursday night when a mere 264 fans showed up for the match between Al-Riyadh and Al-Hazm at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium. How low can you go?

But that's still a bit higher than the 133 fans that showed up to Al-Riyadh's 1-nil victory against Al-Okhdood last September.

Conversely, attendance for the league's top clubs is much livelier. Fifty-nine thousand six hundred attended Neymar's debut for Al-Hilal at the eponymous home stadium. Attendance has doubled since the Brazilian's arrival, matching stadium capacity. Yet, home gate numbers have normalized since Neymar's injury absence last October.

Ronaldo also consistently fills up the 25,000 seats at Al-Awwal Park for 's home matches.

Those sell-out crowds for Saudi's Pro League's biggest sides- not surprisingly, the ones owned by Saudi Araba's Public Investment Fund (PIF) – are why the league's 8,634 attendance average is respectable. The schism between the big four (Al-Ittihad, Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, and Al-Ahli) and smaller clubs continues to grow.

Despite all this talk about a Saudi side joining the Champions League, the Saudi Pro League attendance is still lopsided. So what is going on here? Other than the Al Raed fans who support their local club with 8,700 fans per home game, it seems that all any average fan in cares about is the top four clubs. And it's hard to blame them.

What explains the overall dwindling fan attendance in Saudi Arabia?

Is there also something more profound happening at the stadium experience level? Perhaps fans would rather watch from the comfort of their living rooms and play football games virtually. On Sunday, a paltry 34,568 fans attended the Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid match at Barcelona's temporary home stadium, Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

Like football clubs globally, Saudi Pro clubs leverage their iconic status, team heritage, and star players to build a powerful brand identity, engaging fans through thrilling on-field performances and off-field interactions. But even League One and League Two sides in lower-tier English football garner a few thousand to 10,000 spectators per match.

This bond is crucial for driving match attendance, merchandise sales, and digital engagement, as fans are not just spectators but integral parts of the club's identity and success. How can most Saudi sides maintain this special fan connection to thrive in a competitive worldwide football market?

Photo: Instagram/al-hilal

 

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