While majority of those involved in Saudi football along with the tens of thousands of Al Ahli and Al Hilal fans are looking forward to next week when the two teams meet in London to battle for the Super Cup, some concerns of smaller scale are playing out in the minds of the few.
One of them being the possibility of a strong criminal intent, especially in the minds of those who carry an ill feeling towards Saudi Arabia. Considering the recent events back in Saudi Arabia, and those in France and else where in Europe, security alerts are on a absolute high. The Super Cup finale would not be void of these concerns. This in itself raises a discussion to play a game of this magnitude outside the country based on reasoning and necessity. Has UK provide the security detail required for adequate reassurance of fans in the stadiums?
Secondly, the league might just have deprived the fan bases of these massive clubs from attending and enjoying the game without having to force the need to apply for a visa, purchase tickets and travel abroad to watch the game. And majority of these fans do not have the financial capability to make the trip.
Speaking exclusively to Australian news network SBS, Saudi Pro League chairman Yasser Al-Mishal explained the reasoning behind choosing London as the host city.
“The idea came last year from the sponsors (Saudi Arabian Airlines) of the league and the federation. They came with the idea because there is a lot of Saudis who spend their summer in Europe, and mainly in London.”
However, the thought of hosting these games in either Dubai or Doha would make more sense considering the proximity of the nations. It’s easier for people to travel to either of these two cities as in compared to London. And Al Mishal understands that fact.
“There was an idea of hosting one, or a few games, of the league in Dubai, because Dubai during the winter holidays has a lot of Saudis as well travelling there.”
Thirdly, greater financial returns, in terms of operations, could be realized if the game was held in either Jeddah or Riyadh. Attendance at these games would not be less than 70,000 and limited to an Al Ahli or a Al Hilal fan but would interest the neutrals as well. While Fulham’s home ground – Craven Cottage – cannot accommodate more than 25,000 fans.
It would be safe to say that these sort of match-ups in any of the top capitals around the world do not bring about any gain in earnest to Saudi Arabian football because after all, attendees at these games normally tend to be either Saudis or people from the Gulf. As an example, one may look at the 2012 Trophée des champions (French Cup) between Lyon and Montpellier in Harrison, USA. The game recorded an attendance level that barely surpassed 15,000, which is quite contrary to what one may have witnessed in a stadium in France.
Moreover, foreign media does not usually pay any significance in covering the event. Hopefully, these reasons among others should raise a new set of questions with primary objective being the need of officials to review the idea of playing these important season openers away from home and away from the tone of the nation’s perceived vision of 2030.