How does the Saudi Pro League work?

The Saudi Pro League is the main football league in Saudi Arabia. A stage rapidly growing and is becoming graced by some of the finest football talents from across Europe’s top five leagues. It draws in passionate fans from across the country and the broader Arabic region.

In this comprehensive guide, let’s get to know the inner workings of the Saudi Pro League, exploring its ownership, the enticing rewards for champions, its association with the Champions League, and the pathway for ambitious teams seeking to ascend to the elite ranks of Saudi football.

Who owns the Saudi Pro League?

Saudi Pro League Logo

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), the country’s football league’s authoritative regulating body, is at the helm of the Saudi Pro League. The SAFF is in charge of overseeing football operations, including national teams, leagues, and grassroots development, with the Saudi Pro League occupying center stage among its significant responsibilities.

As the league’s owner and manager, the SAFF is involved in the creation of regulations, the approval of transfers and player contracts, and the resolution of disciplinary issues. The SAFF, in collaboration with club owners, sponsors, and broadcasters, assures the league’s smooth operation and expansion, making it an important element in Saudi Arabia’s football landscape.

What is the prize money for the Saudi Pro League winners?

Al Ittihad Club Logo

In the pursuit of trophies, the Saudi Pro League entices its most successful team with a substantial cash prize, a testament to their remarkable performance throughout the season. The recognition extends to players, coaching staff, and club management, acknowledging their dedication and effort.

The prize money fluctuates from season to season, influenced by sponsorship agreements, broadcasting rights, and the league’s overall revenue. In recent years, champions of the Saudi Pro League have been rewarded with multi-million Saudi Riyals, elevating it to a lucrative and prestigious accolade for the triumphant club.

Al Ittihad emerged victorious in 2022/2023, claiming a remarkable SR25 million (£5.15m) in prize money. This marked a significant increase from the previous season’s total of SR17 million (£3.5m). This upward trend mirrors the growing popularity of the Saudi Professional League and reflects the Saudi Arabian government’s continued investment in the league.

The anticipation is high, with expectations of continued prize money escalation, captivating top-tier players, and elevating the league to a globally competitive stature. A prime example of the league’s power was the acquisition of footballing legend Cristiano Ronaldo. Even though Lionel Messi made the move to the MLS, this is largely an exception to the rule, as we are seeing a number of very talented, prime, and aging players making the transition to Saudi Arabia.

Do Saudi Pro League teams play in the Champions League?

AFC Champions League Logo
The AFC Champions League is the pinnacle of Asian club football

Saudi Pro League teams do not compete in the famous European Champions League but rather in the iconic AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League. For teams that secure victory or emerge as runners-up, a direct qualification to the group stage awaits, providing an excellent opportunity to represent Saudi Arabia on the continental stage.

The AFC Champions League is a significant opportunity for Saudi Pro League teams to demonstrate their abilities, learn from the experience, and compete against strong teams in the region. This prestigious event offers teams a chance to make their mark in football history and leave a lasting impact on the worldwide football community.

How many teams get promoted to Saudi Pro League?

Al Ettifaq FC Logo

The Saudi Pro League operates with a system of promotion and relegation to ensure competitiveness and maintain a strong football pyramid. The second-tier football league in Saudi Arabia is known as the First Division League (or the Saudi First Division).

At the end of each season, the bottom one or two teams in the Saudi Pro League standings are relegated to the First Division League. Simultaneously, the top one or two teams from the First Division League are promoted to the Saudi Pro League, earning their spot among the elite teams in the country.

Starting from the highly anticipated 2023-2024 season, the Saudi Pro League is set to undergo a momentous transformation, expanding its horizons to accommodate four fresh contenders, elevating the total teams from 16 to 18. This ambitious expansion marks a departure from the previous norm, where only three teams were granted entry into the Saudi Pro League.

To secure a coveted spot in the Saudi Pro League, teams must prove their mettle in the fiercely competitive Saudi First Division League, the esteemed second tier of professional football in Saudi Arabia. This developmental league acts as a nurturing ground for burgeoning talent, providing a platform for aspiring athletes to showcase their skills.

Conversely, the bottom three teams in the Saudi Pro League face relegation to the Saudi First Division League for the upcoming season. This system of relegation allows for a greater sense of jeopardy.


The Saudi Pro League stands as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s deep-rooted passion for football. Guided by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, the league continues to grow in stature and popularity.

With generous rewards for champions, the gateway to the prestigious AFC Champions League, and a well-structured promotion system, along with the ability to offer major financial incentives to players and staff, the Saudi Pro League has started to gather momentum among the footballing elite.

As the league evolves, it is poised to make a significant dent in elite sports and continue to push the growth and popularity of football within the Saudi region.

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