Premier League chief Richard Masters insists the Saudi Pro League is no threat to England’s top flight… as he says English football has ‘rich history and tradition’
- Masters believes the Premier League is a long way ahead of the Saudi Pro League
- Saudi clubs have signed high-profile players on big money deals this year
- The transfer raid this summer is part of a wider project with the Olympics in sight
Premier League supremo Richard Masters has backed England’s top-flight to combat the Saudi Pro League’s threat to continue as the world leading division.
The emergence of the Saudi Pro League has proved one of the stories of the summer transfer window after a number of Europe’s most recognisable players were lured by the huge wages being offered.
England vice-captain Jordan Henderson and Chelsea’s World Cup winner N’Golo Kante are among the players to join Cristiano Ronaldo – who moved to Saudi from Manchester United last season – in the Arab nation.
The division’s spending power has posed a major threat to European football’s status as the recognised mecca of the sport.
But Premier League chief executive Masters believes the Saudi Pro League still has a long way to go before it topples England’s top-flight as the planet’s best club competition.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is not worried about the Saudi Pro League
Saudi clubs have snapped up a string of Premier League stars this summer on big wages
Jordan Henderson is one of the most notable names to make the switch from the Premier League
‘My view is creating a football competition people are interested in watching, part of the answer is the players on the pitch and managers,’ said Masters, who also distanced the Premier League from the concept of playing competitive matches in the USA.
‘But there’s a whole load of other things that get people to want to buy into when supporting a club and sticking with them for life. And English football has all of the core ingredients – the rich history and tradition since 1888. The fact you’ve got a football club in every community.
‘Home and away support – packed stadiums, fast-paced football. All the things English football is known for is really hard to replicate. They are all part of the package of things that make them attractive to sponsors, broadcasters and critically fans.
‘We are pleased with the way our competitions works, with the amount of global coverage it gets, how much global interest it gets, the support for all our clubs, its been a long and hard journey to get there and lots of investment made and we are approaching a £6bn a year economy.
‘In the end football competitions need revenue to drive forward. You can’t continue to invest ahead of revenue to have a successful competition.
‘They want to raise the profile of the league. It’s been around since the 1970s, there are 18 clubs, there are big clubs in Jeddah and Riyadh. This is not something that has been invented over night.
‘Obviously they are trying to raise the profile of football in that country and they are going through a process of trying to to do it. They have spent €450m on 20-odd players, eight or nine of which have come from Premier League clubs – we are only at the start of something.
‘I have been asked if I’m concerned by that and you know the answer – it’s something we have to keep an eye on.
Masters pointed to English football’s rich history, packed grounds, and community roots
The Premier League is becoming a ‘£6bn economy’ which began formally in 1992 but English football has been thriving since the 1800s
‘Obviously football competitions are in competition with each other, coming back to FIFA and UEFA – everyone has to make sure within competitions there’s level playing field and within competition structures there is a level playing field.
‘At the moment we are way off worrying about that.’
On the prospect of playing Premier League matches in America – an idea that has once again been mentioned over the summer – Masters added: ‘The Premier League has come away from being a niche interest, like it was a decade ago.
‘But I don’t think we’re really any nearer a game abroad. It’s not part of current plans.’
Masters dismissed the idea of Premier League games being played abroad – despite the Summer Series and lots of tours taking place across North America and Asia
Meanwhile, it is understood the concept of the Premier League holding winter breaks beyond the forthcoming season is under review due to the burgeoning international football calendar.
European and international competitions – including the World Cup – are expanding which will leave less time for the Premier League to fulfil their fixtures.
A mid-season break is scheduled to take place between January 13-20 next year.
But there is concern that the growing international schedule will not allow for future winter breaks beyond the 2023-24 season.