Money can buy players, but it can’t buy fans.
“Saudi Arabia’s Al Etihad, led by Steven Gerrard, were defeated in front of just 696 fans,” the sports media outlet SportsBible reported on March 23 (KST).
Recently, Saudi capital has been threatening European soccer. While the standard of play may not be high, the kingdom’s huge payroll is a big draw. European stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Sadio Mane have already headed to Saudi Arabia.
There’s not much European clubs can do to stop the Saudis. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola commented on the Saudi move, saying, “(Mahrez’s move to Saudi Arabia) was an incredible offer. That’s why we couldn’t tell him not to go.”
An unnamed executive in the Saudi professional league was quoted by the Mirror as saying: “This is just the beginning. The league’s budget is astronomical and there is already interest from major English players in moving here.” “I can guarantee more top players will arrive next year,” he said.
There’s one thing the Saudi league, which is getting everything it wants from its massive “oil money,” hasn’t gotten: fans. It’s the fans.
Gerrard’s Al Etihad lost 0-1 to Al Riyadh in the 10th round of the Saudi Pro League on Nov. 23 (local time). Al Etihad fielded a number of players with European experience, including former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, Demarai Gray, and Giorginio Wijnaldum.
After the game, it wasn’t Al Ahly’s loss that stood out – it was the crowd. According to SportsBible, only 696 people came to watch the game. That’s a lot of money to spend.
“A match between Bury and Winsenshaw in England’s ninth tier attracted 3,195 fans,” SportsBible 스포츠토토 wrote, adding that the Saudi league’s attendance was “staggeringly low.
The Saudis are threatening Europe with ‘oil money’ on a scale never seen in soccer history. Saudi Arabia is spending money to catch up with European soccer, but there’s still a long way to go.