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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Saudi Telecom gets rights to broadcast local pro-football

Dh6.6bn 10-year deal appears to take rights to show Saudi football away from regional broadcaster MBC group

Saudi fans at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Telecom looks set to broadcast local professional matches. EPA
Saudi fans at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Telecom looks set to broadcast local professional matches. EPA

State-run Saudi Telecom has signed a tentative deal with the government's General Sports Authority to broadcast Saudi professional football matches over 10 years for 6.6 billion Saudi riyals (Dh6.61bn), the authority said on Tuesday.

The deal appears to have rights to broadcast Saudi football away from regional broadcaster MBC group, which in July 2014 signed a 4.1bn riyal, 10-year deal to obtain them.

Saudi Arabian businessman Waleed Al Ibrahim, who has management control of MBC, was detained for nearly three months in a sweeping crackdown on corruption and released late last month.

Mr Al Ibrahim, who could not be reached for comment, agreed to an undisclosed settlement after admitting to unspecified violations, according to senior Saudi officials. MBC said he had been found innocent of any wrongdoing in the investigation and would keep control of MBC.

In its statement on Tuesday, the sports authority did not mention MBC, and the company could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saudi Telecom's agreement covers exclusive rights to broadcast matches of Saudi Arabia's Professional Football League and the national team, as well as sponsorship rights, the authority said.

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During the two-month period of the deal, a detailed agreement will be negotiated, it added. Saudi Telecom currently offers access to television channels and movies over its broadband network.

The government is keen to develop the sports industry as part of reforms to diversify the economy beyond oil exports, and the authority said its deal was in line with that drive.

Last year Jadwa Investment, a top local investment bank, was appointed to advise on the planned privatisation of as many as five football clubs in the Saudi Professional League. The Saudi Telecom deal may be a step towards privatisation deals, but the authority did not mention the issue.