Would The Open accept Saudi investment? R&A boss: "The world has changed"

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, has hinted The Open would consider an investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

Ben Smith's picture
Wed, 19 Jul 2023
Would The Open accept Saudi investment? R&A boss: "The world has changed"

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient, has refused to rule out The Open accepting Saudi Arabian investment. 

Slumbers made the revelation on the eve of the 151st Open Championship, which is being staged at Royal Liverpool this year. 

The boss of the R&A told reporters on 19 July the governing body simply cannot continue to ignore the changes that have been made in world sport.

Slumbers, 53, said the power struggle between the PGA Tour and LIV was 'tearing golf apart' and the constant talk of money was 'damaging the perception of our sport worldwide in the eyes of a number of young people'. 

Related: Senior player 'targeted' at The Open

"I think the world has changed in the last year," he said when asked if The Open would accept cash from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF). "It's not just golf."

He continued: 

"You're seeing it in football. You're seeing it in F1. You're seeing it in cricket. I'm sure tennis won't be that far behind.
"The world of sport has changed dramatically in the last 12 months, and it is not feasible for the R&A or golf to just ignore what is a societal change on a global basis. We will be considering within all the parameters that we look at all the options that we have.

Slumbers said he was 'waiting to learn more' about the shock agreement that was announced between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the PIF on 6 June. 

He stressed the R&A was not party to the agreement but 'welcomed' an end to the disruption in the men's professional game. 

"We will await the outcome with interest," he said, before sending his best wishes to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan

Monahan briefly stepped away from the day-to-day duties of his role owing to an unexplained medical condition just days after the 'framework agreement' was announced. 

It was reported by Telegraph Sport earlier in the week that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF and chairman of Newcastle United and LIV Golf, will be on the property at Royal Liverpool this week. 

Slumbers said he watched the US Senate hearing - where two high-ranking PGA Tour officials were grilled about the deal with the Saudis - with great interest. 

"All credit, I think, goes to Jimmy [Dunne] and to Ron [Price] [and] the way they handled themselves, and I was very impressed and glad I wasn't sitting in their shoes."

During that hearing, there was the bombshell revelation that the PIF proposed Al-Rumayyan wanted membership at both the R&A and Augusta National. 

Slumbers said he thinks there needs to be a 'sensible conversation' about the long-term financial sustainability of golf. 

He continued:"I want to make sure that we leave golf, when I’ve done my time, in a stronger position than it is. [A] stronger position for me is more people playing golf."

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