Perhaps the most considerable footballing development this summer was the rise of Saudi Arabia in the sport. Armed with an endless stream of money, fans across Europe have been worried about what the rise of this new superpower means.
Besides the Sauds, the biggest winner has to be the Prem.
Until this summer, it seemed that no one could challenge the Prem for economic superiority in football. Out of nowhere, Saudi Arabia began to splash the cash around and drew in some big names.
Even with the financial security of the Prem, the rise of a new superpower will surely worry some of the heads of the league. In terms of pure finances, Saudi Arabia is currently outpacing most Prem clubs. Chelsea has even found a way to “partner” with the Saudis to clear the books for more signings.
With the rest of Europe worrying, the Prem may end this saga as the biggest winners in Europe. The TV and other commercial deals that the league has can keep them competitive against any potential threat. Additionally, that security will allow them to survive and continue to raid other leagues for talents.
The Premier League will be challenged in a way that they have never been financially.
However, unlike the rest of Europe, they are going to find a way to survive.
Ronaldo’s transfer to Al Nassr signaled a new shift in the footballing world. It was time for the Saudis to rival Europe in football.
As the summer progressed, top talents began flocking to the Middle East to call their new footballing home. Of course, the talent level is nowhere near Europe, outside the top 1%, but the money involved would be too much. Understandably, the players are being offered wages that could rival the GDP of certain countries.
Just this week, Napoli lost out on a top prospect in Gabri Veiga to Saudi Arabia in a shocking move. Only 21, Veiga is knocking on the doors of the Spanish national team, and now, he will be plying his trade outside of Europe. Unlike the other veterans moving, it is a bit shocking to see a promising youngster jump ship to a league that won’t foster true development.
Having an entire country willing to fund their league gives this league an advantage no other league has. No more can stingy and weak ownerless tank a league; clubs are able to throw any amount at players with no care about diminishing return on players. Officials can now build FIFA-level ultimate teams with little care about return.
Every country and its respective sports leagues have dark secrets that lay below their surface. However, few regimes have openly done terrible acts so openly with the knowledge they’ll never face the consequences. From the country’s involvement in the genocidal war in Yemen to the torture and execution of Jamal Khashoggi, the regime’s recent actions have put any actions in the direct spotlight.
Saudi Arabia’s rapid rise to the top has come with fast and available money to snap up the world’s top talents. For the first time in recent memory, there is a real contender for Europe’s top leagues.
While the rest of Europe struggles with how to cope with this new superpower, the Prem might have found a way to solidify their grasp as Europe’s best league. Only the Prem can muster up the financial might to stand up to Saudi Arabia.
For close to a decade now, really since the 2014 World Cup, no league has matched the Premier League in terms of TV deals. In fact, the current TV deal was just extended for a price upwards of 6 billion dollars. Even with the country’s immense wealth, it’d be truly hard to believe that the Saudis could find a TV deal that could come close to this.
Not only does the Prem, as a league, stand above every other league, but so do the clubs. The Swiss Ramble noted that every club in the 2018/19 season earned more from TV deals than every other European club besides Barcelona and Real Madrid. This explains why getting relegated from the Prem is catastrophic, for most clubs and teams will bankrupt themselves to be in the Prem.
These TV deals, along with other commercial ones, are the only way to keep afloat financially in this new landscape. It will also allow the league to continue hoarding all of Europe’s best players.
This is evident in how mid-table clubs are able to outspend major European clubs. Take a look at Aston Villa, who have already spent more than clubs like Barcelona and Juventus. By being able to spend more, Aston Villa is able to make excellent moves for prices that make sense for them.
Villa is such a good example of how even mid-table clubs can turn themselves into real threats with the cash influx. They’re competing against elite European sides for talent, and this is why they will win out in Europe. Soon, no other league could offer close to what the Prem will, so more and more players will flock to English shores.
Maybe for the Prem, this won’t be the extinction-level threat that fans are thinking it will be. Rather, this may give the league a chance to solidify itself as having the best player pool in the world.
No one could have expected Saudi Arabia to try to conquer the sport the way they have been. Fans have, rightfully, been worried about what this means for the game, but the Prem looks to be fine in a world of uncertainty.
Time will tell how successful this Saudi Arabian project will be, but the Prem will continue to excel.