Saudi crown prince on PGA Tour-PIF deal? "I don't care about sportswashing"

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia says he 'doesn't care' about use of the term sportswashing as he declared the PGA Tour-PIF/LIV Golf deal as 'wonderful'.

Ben Smith's picture
Thu, 21 Sep 2023
Saudi crown prince on PGA Tour-PIF deal? "I don't care about sportswashing"

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia says he does not care about the use of the term 'sportswashing' as he declared the PGA Tour's vague 'framework agreement' with LIV Golf as 'a wonderful thing'. 

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News, Mohammed bin Salman said he did not care about accusations Saudi Arabia are trying to soften their reputation through sport. 

Human rights campaigners argue sport is being used by the Saudis to distract from long-standing reputational issues such as its stance on same-sex marriages, treatment of migrant workers, their criminal justice system and the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia's PIF purchased Newcastle United last year and launched the LIV Golf League in June with high-profile golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and Bryson DeChambeau joining for multi-million dollar deals. 

Mickelson is said to have commanded an up-front fee of $200m. 

Several ageing European stars such as Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell agreed to join the league which features $25m prize purses and guaranteed payouts of at least $120,000 for every event. 

In recent comments, McDowell has said he regretted taking part in the awkward LIV Golf press conference at Centurion Club last June.

He was asked questions he couldn't answer, he said, despite being prepped by LIV officials on what to say. 

"It didn't need said," McDowell said as he declared he joined the rival league for money

After a year of unprecedented disruption and widespread criticism from the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the PGA Tour agreed a deal to merge their commercial interests into a new, for-profit company with the PIF. 

PGA Tour Enterprises will see one of the prince's key confidantes, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, act as the chairman. 

The deal marked a stunning, about-face tour management policy. 

McIlroy later conceded the deal ultimately 'neutralises' LIV's overall threat whereas Woods has joined the PGA Tour's policy board in a stunning power move. 

Details of that agreement announced on 6 June are scarce but by its terms golf's organisations have until the end of the year to get it signed and sealed. 

Bin Salman told Fox News: "If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by one 1 per cent, then we'll continue doing sportswashing."

He added:

"I have 1 per cent growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5 per cent.
"Call it what you want - we are going to get that 1.5 per cent."

Scroll down... 

Of the PGA Tour-PIF deal, he added: "It is a wonderful thing. Now the two organisations can focus on developing the sport of golf. That's a game changer for the golf industry, you will have a focus in developing the game and that's good for the players and the fans who love golf."

It is not just golf and football that the PIF are involved in. F1 star Lewis Hamilton has called on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights reputation. 

Tennis will hold a professional event in Saudi Arabia later this year for the first time.

World title boxing fights have also been held in the Kingdom over the last few years. 

Read more:

Watched our latest YouTube video?