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Serie A to return to Saudi Arabia with Supercoppa

The Supercoppa Italiana trophy (by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Lega Serie A, the top division of Italian club football, has announced that it will return to Saudi Arabia to stage this year’s edition of its Supercoppa Italiana.

The match between Juventus and Lazio will be played at Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium on December 22. It will mark the second successive season that the Supercoppa Italiana, which is contested by the winners of the previous season’s Serie A and Coppa Italia, has been held in Saudi Arabia.

In June 2018, Lega Serie A struck a deal with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) to stage the match in the country for three of the next five years. The first match of the agreement saw Juventus defeat AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City stadium in January 2019.

Lega Serie A’s confirmation that this year’s match will be held in Saudi Arabia comes after UsigRai, the journalists’ union of public-service broadcaster Rai, and the Italian division of Amnesty International recently called on Juventus and Lazio to boycott the match.

UsigRai and Amnesty protested against the 2018-19 match and in September wrote to Andrea Agnelli and Claudio Lotito, the respective presidents of Juventus and Lazio, asking them not to play the 2019-20 edition in Saudi Arabia.

Lega Serie A’s decision to enter into a long-term agreement has attracted criticism amid concerns over human rights in the country, but also given the activities of pirate channel beoutQ.

Last month, Yousef Al-Obaidly, chief executive of beIN Media Group, which has been hit hardest by the emergence of beoutQ, criticised rights-holders for hosting events in Saudi Arabia despite the ongoing threat that the pirate channel poses to their leagues.

He said: “The CEOs of Serie A and the Spanish FA (RFEF) continue to see no issue with hosting their flagship Super Cup games in the very country that has been stealing the commercial rights of all their broadcast partners for over two years, destroying the value of the Italian and Spanish game in the process.

“Amazingly, the Spanish FA is also completely undermining the great work that LaLiga has done. In response to piracy generally putting beoutQ aside, the industry is paying lip service to the problem at best.”

BeIN is a key client of Serie A, holding rights to the league across the Mena region (from 2018-19 to 2020-21) in a deal that makes up a significant proportion of IMG’s international rights minimum guarantee.

The Supercoppa has been staged outside of Italy on numerous occasions in the past. The Qatari capital of Doha played host in 2016 and 2014, while the Chinese cities of Beijing (2009, 2011 and 2012) and Shanghai (2015) also staged recent editions. New York and Washington D.C. also staged the match in 2003 and 1993, respectively, while the 2002 game was played in Tripoli, Libya.