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STC set to terminate Saudi football rights deal

Saudi Telecom Company informed the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) that it is working to terminate its 10-season media and marketing deal with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and the General Sport Authority.

STC, which is 70-per-cent owned by the state’s Public Investment Fund, acquired media and marketing rights last year to: the Saudi Professional League; the Saudi King Cup; the second-tier Saudi First Division; the third-tier Saudi Second Division; and the Saudi Arabia national team, to which its media rights cover only friendly matches.

The deal was scheduled to be worth SAR6.61bn (€1.59bn/$1.76bn) over the 10 seasons, from 2018-19 to 2027-28. It is now poised to be terminated following negotiations with both SAFF and the GSA.

STC said in its note to the Saudi Stock Exchange: “The company announces that the negotiations with the General Sport Authority and Saudi Arabian Football Federation on the revision of these agreements have been completed and accordingly the company decided not to continue those agreements because of their commercial feasibility in light of developments related to the mechanism of TV and digital broadcasting and the marketing sponsorships.”

“The company is currently working to terminate those agreements.”

STC’s plan was to ensure free-to-air coverage and it did so on the KSA Sport channel which is operated by the KSA Ministry of Culture and Information.

Media rights were previously held by commercial and pay-television broadcaster MBC. That deal was meant to be over 10 seasons, from 2014-15 to 2023-24, and was said to be worth a total of SAR 4.1bn. The new deal with STC was made possible after the GSA stripped SPL rights from MBC from 2018-19 onward.

STC’s imminent withdrawal from the lucrative rights agreement comes amid ongoing scrutiny over Saudi Arabia’s investment in sport and the widespread criticism of the beoutQ pirate broadcaster carried on the regional satellite provider Arabsat.