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Ronaldo factor secures European rights deals for Saudi Pro League

After all the hype surrounding his US$200m deal to play football in Saudi Arabia, Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his debut for Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr at the weekend – starting with a 1-0 victory over Ettifaq. Ahead of the fixture, SPL rights agency IMG secured a run of TV deals – underlining the enduring appeal of the Portuguese star.

Having only been brought in last week, IMG has managed to secure a range of deals with partners including Sport TV in Portugal, Sportitalia in Italy, RMC Sport in France, Cosmote in Greece and Sportdigital Fussball in the German-speaking DACH countries. Domestically, live coverage of the league has already been acquired by Ministry of Sport-backed enterprise the Saudi Sports Company (SSC).

Saudi Araba has ambitions to become one of the world’s major forces in soccer, and undoubtedly has the budget to do it. Aside from state-supported investment in the SPL, the country bankrolled the hosting of the Italian Super Cup final and the Spanish Super Cup final in capital city Riyadh. It also hosted a friendly fixture between Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain and a local All-Star XI led by Ronaldo. There are also reports that Saudi Arabia would like to co-host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, though this prospect seems unlikely after Qatar secured the 2022 competition.

January has also seen the Saudi Arabian breakaway golf tour LIV secure a breakthrough rights deal in the US, courtesy of The CW Network.

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