Saudi involvement in US golf has drawn criticism


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Status: 06/10/2023 1:19 p.m

Saudi Arabia buys into professional sport worldwide – most recently it hit US golf. There was sharp criticism: the Saudis were trying to clear themselves of allegations relating to 9/11 and the murder of Kashoggi.

It has not been a good week for Terry Strada. She was so disappointed, Strada said on Fox News, that it was a punch in the stomach to wake up to these headlines. Terry Strada is the spokeswoman for 9/11 Families United, an organization of people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and who believe Saudi Arabia played a key role in it. But now, says Terry Strada, the Saudis have infiltrated professional golf just as they infiltrated US airspace on 9/11.

Golf as a political matter

Golf in the USA has been a highly political issue for a year now – since a new golf league started operations. LIV Golf is funded with billions of dollars from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. For the established professional league PGA Tour, the start was a declaration of war, because the new competition was aggressively poaching players – with a bonus of hundreds of millions of dollars. The renegade players, including the German Martin Kaymer, were sharply criticized for this.

US intelligence is accusing the Saudi crown prince of being responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, and according to the FBI, many leads to the 9/11 attacks lead to Saudi Arabia. According to the accusation, the country is engaged in “sportswashing”, i.e. trying to create a new, clean image through sport.

The PGA also followed suit. Two families close to him have lost loved ones, said PGA chief Jay Monahan a year ago that he feels for them.

Fusion – despite criticism

But now everything is completely different. Monahan announced last Tuesday that the PGA will merge with the Saudis. He acknowledges that many will now call him hypocritical; he accepts the criticism, but circumstances sometimes change. Now it’s about uniting golf under one roof.

So the two leagues PGA and LIV will merge their golf businesses; The new company will be headed by the head of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. A motive for the surprising decision should be the future worries of the Americans.

“It’s hypocritical”

More and more amateur players no longer go to the pitch, but to sports facilities where balls are hit and people celebrate. New ideas and fresh money are needed here. “There’s no question that this will be good for the growth of the golf business worldwide,” said sports economist Patrick Rishe at CNBC.

The players who fought the Saudi league – Rory McIlroy, for example, of Northern Ireland – may also see that. But the number three in the golf world understands the disappointment above all: “First you swear everyone against someone. Then you enter into a partnership with exactly them. Of course I understand that. It’s hypocritical, it sounds hypocritical.”

On the other hand, the one who doesn’t have any problems with Saudi Arabia is Donald Trump. The former president had always supported the new league and hosted a number of tournaments on his golf courses. This week he was delighted with the “big, beautiful” merger.

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