RIYADH: The biggest sporting prize in Saudi Arabia will finally see a winner as the Saudi Pro League returns after more than four months without football.
Over SAR1.6 billion ($426 million) has been invested in the Kingdom’s favourite sport this year, which has seen the SPL enjoy its biggest ever season before the lockdown halted the campaign in March.
With investment happening throughout sport in the Kingdom, football remains at the heart of communities with SPL clubs enjoying their biggest ever attendances since the season got underway last August, with over a million fans attending games by the halfway point of the campaign.
Throughout the season families and friends have packed out the biggest games of the season, including the record 43,783 fans who seen Al Hilal claim an away win over Al Ittihad in the ‘Saudi El Clasico’ in September.
The investment of the league is part of the strategy by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Sport which sees improvements to the game on the pitch, driving attendances and overall engagement with fans throughout the country.
The huge investment has also allowed clubs to improve their playing squads and this season there have been players from over 40 countries competing in the SPL. Former English Premier League stars Wilfried Bony and Marko Marin have joined the division, whilst Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah is the league’s leading scorer with 18 goals in his second season with Al Nassr.
On the pitch, history was made at the start of the season when the promoted trio Abha, Damac and Al Adalah made their first appearance in the SPL.
With just eight rounds remaining, it is also all left to play for as Al Nassr and Al Hilal continue their tight title race for the second consecutive year with only 6 points separating them. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table just 7 points separate bottom placed Damac and Al Fayha in 12th position meaning the relegation battle will most certainly go down to the last kick of a game. The league resumes on August 4th and will promise an action-packed 35 days that fans will not want to miss.
Throughout lockdown, the league has maintained its supporter engagement with a strong focus on digital communication which has included the growth of the league’s twitter channel which now has over one million followers.
Recognising that fans are unable to attend games for the remaining eight rounds of fixtures, the SPL has developed its #OurLeagueIsBack campaign which allows fans to share their support online, with videos and messages then being shown across stadiums on matchdays.
Fans can share their messages of support easily by following social media accounts on Twitter (@SPL), Instagram (SaudiProLeague), Facebook (@SaudiProLeague.SPL) and by using the hashtag #OurLeagueIsBack.