Next season’s Supercoppa, the annual clash traditionally played between winners of Italian soccer’s top-tier Serie A and Coppa Italia knockout competition, will return to Saudi Arabia as a four-team tournament under a new six-year deal between Serie A and the Gulf state.

Under the fresh agreement, four out of the next six editions of the competition will be staged in Saudi Arabia. The next two Supercoppas will be held in the kingdom, while the two after that will be held elsewhere, before returning to Saudi Arabia for the final two years of the deal.

Serie A told reporters after a meeting with its clubs that it would make a decision at a later date as to whether it will maintain the four-team format or return to a single-match final for the following five seasons after the inaugural edition.

A league official told reporters the new contract would bring in €23 million ($24.64 million) for a four-team competition and €12 million if it staged a single match final.

This year’s Supercoppa, the 2022 edition based on when the clubs involved qualified, was also held in Saudi Arabia, on January 18, and saw Inter Milan triumph 3-0 over city rivals AC Milan.

It was part of the governing body’s previous €21-million agreement with Saudi Arabia to stage three editions of the contest in the country over the five years spanning 2017 to 2021.

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It marked the return of the tournament to the kingdom after being staged on home soil for the past two seasons despite the previous agreement.

The league staged two editions of the Supercoppa in Saudi in 2019. The first game was played in Jeddah in January 2019, with the second in Riyad at the end of that year. The 2020 edition was held in Italy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year’s 2021 edition was staged in Milan at Inter’s iconic San Siro stadium after a late switch. At the time, it was reported the Saudi authorities failed to meet a specified deadline to exercise their option to host the match. To compensate, Serie A said it would stage this year's 2022 edition in Saudi Arabia.

The new agreement comes after it was reported last June that authorities in Saudi Arabia had made a bid of €23 million ($24 million) per season to host the next five editions of the Supercoppa, from 2023-24 to 2027-28.

The league has faced scrutiny over its long-term agreement to stage the competition in Saudi Arabia, given the country’s human rights record.

Serie A came in for criticism over the first game as it was held just months after dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Serie A had also come under pressure to move the Supercoppa out of Saudi Arabia from BeIN Sports, the Qatar-based pay-TV broadcaster, which had clashed with the country over its harboring of beoutQ, the pirate broadcaster of a range of sports properties, including Italy's top flight.

However, Serie A's president Paolo Dal Pino insisted it would honor the five-year contract, adding the league would work with the ministry of sports in Saudi Arabia on initiatives relating to human rights.

At the time, he told Rai’s Radio Anch'io: “The question of human rights? We have a contract signed two or three years ago when I wasn't there. 

“There is a relationship of intense collaboration with the Saudi Arabian federation on women's football and precisely in going in the direction of opening up human rights.”

Since 2009, multiple editions of the Supercoppa have been held abroad. China has hosted three, while Qatar has staged two. Saudi Arabia has now hosted three.

Domestic rights to the competition are held by Canale 5, the Mediaset-owned free-to-air commercial channel, as part of Mediaset’s three-year deal for the Coppa Italia from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

Infront, the global sports marketing agency, secured the Serie A international rights for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle in a deal worth €139 ($146 million) per year. The deal excludes the US and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Rights for Serie A in the MENA region were acquired by media and entertainment organization Abu Dhabi Media covering the 2022-23 to 2024-25 season. US national network CBS holds the rights to the league until 2023-24 in a deal worth around £200 million ($243 million).

Image: Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images