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The Saudi Backed Golf League Just Won't Go Away

By: | Mon 01 Nov 2021 | Comments


MONEY talks. Much has been said and written about the proposed Saudi-backed Super Golf League. And anybody who believes that it is going to go away is living in cloud cuckoo land. 

If you want proof, just look at the recent take-over of Newcastle United. Having been rebuffed they simply went away, addressed the issues that had derailed their original plans and came back with another offer. What the Saudis want, they tend to get.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of human rights abuses and of treating its women like second-class citizens, but that didn't stop the European Tour from staging the highly controversial Saudi International, which routinely attracts many of the biggest names in golf. 

It is all very well to get all high and mighty about the Saudis record on human rights but do you really think Dustin Johnson gives it a second thought when he is offered untold riches to play there?

Greg Norman has been named as the public face of the Saudis' attempts to change the face of professional golf, with 10 cash-rich tournaments already announced. which will be played in direct competition to the PGA and European Tours. 

The new tournaments will be staged annually over the next 10 years with a commitment of over $200m (£145.4m) to support playing opportunities and prize funds from a newly-formed company, LIV Golf Investments, backed by the Private Investment Fund which operates on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia. The events will be played across Asia, the Middle East and Europe and will join established Asian Tour tournaments to comprise a 25-event season from 2022.

You may remember that Norman was the public face of a World Golf Tour proposal in 1994 which crashed and burned. This is different. When the Saudis set their minds on doing something, very little can stop them.

Dustin Johnson

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Players have already been told that if they support the Super Golf League they face fines and suspension from the PGA and European Tours. But what will happen if a significant number of them decide to chase the Saudi money? If fines, bans and suspensions follow then we are likely to see the sport mired in legal challenges. And the only winner will be the lawyers.

I believe that the only way to stop the Saudis is to tell all golfers who take part that they would be banned from competing in the majors but that would also open up a legal minefield.

The PGA and European Tours have refused to engage in any negotiations with the Saudi breakaway movement. It seems like an act of hypocrisy when you consider that the European Tour was happy for the Saudi International to be staged under its banner.

Saudi Golf believes golfers are independent traders and can play wherever they choose. But as things stand, no golfer has come out in public and offered support to the breakaway series. However, Lee Westwood did make it perfectly clear that, with his European Tour career coming to an end, he may find it difficult to say no if the financial rewards were sufficiently enticing.

You do have to ask yourself just how much more money the leading players need. Gary Woodland, who finished in 100th place in the PGA Tour money list last season, collected nearly $1.3m in prize money alone and 124 players earned at least $1m. Even run of the mill tournaments reward their winners with cheques of £1.2m. 

CNN’s Living Golf, a magazine show, is sponsored by Golf Saudi, while Aramco, the Saudi Arabian oil company, sponsors four events on the Ladies European Tour. This is somewhat troubling when you consider the way that the kingdom treats its own women.


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Tags: PGA Tour european tour





 




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