After so many words and promises, the first batch of petrodollars in golf has arrived. Liv Golf Investments, a company with the Saudi Public Investment Fund as the majority shareholder, announced that it has invested 200 million euros on the Asian Tour.
In the world of football, the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign investment fund of Saudi Arabia, recently acquired Newcastle's professional club. The English team, in detail, has gone from entrepreneur Mike Ashley for about 300 million pounds to a shareholder structure that sees the PIF owning 80%.
In the past, the PIF has also been associated with Inter. Liv's man-image (and perhaps machine) is Greg Norman, the group's CEO. Best player from 1986 to 1997, in the World Golf Hall of Fame since 2001, Norman the career white shark won 91 titles.
Now the Australian leads what promises to be a green revolution, with a new league aiming to put a spoke in the wheel on the PGA Tour and the European Tour. The two powers represent the status quo and threaten the hard line with all those players who decide to have something to do with Liv and surroundings.
Liv Golf Investments, statements
"This is just the beginning - said the Australian, former number 1 in the world -. The group I represent is ready to create new opportunities to develop golf around the world ”.
The first tournament that the nascent league will support is Saudi International scheduled from February 3 to 6 at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. In the short term, the aim is to organize about ten races on the Asian Tour in 2022.
"I have been a staunch supporter of the development of golf in Asia for more than four decades - explained Liv's CEO -. The Asian Tour is like a sleeping giant. We want to make a world big with a noticeable and untapped impact.
I repeat: this is a first step in supporting emerging markets by creating a new golf platform ”. In addition to Norman, the board of the organization would also include Ron Cross, former deputy commissioner of the PGA Tour.
A Saudi man watches a golfer compete in the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament on November 15, 2020, at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah. (Photo by Amer HILABI / AFP) The enormity of the upcoming dollars can be seen under multiple interpretations.
One of these leads straight to yet another case of sportwashing. What are you talking about? This is a much less difficult term than it may seem: sportwashing indicates the intention to use sport to cleanse the image of any stains.
And Saudi Arabia, to put it mildly, has some blemishes linked to the lack of respect for human rights. Sacha Deshmukh, number one of Amnesty International, has no doubts: "It is no coincidence that Arabia discovered sport - from boxing matches, from football to golf - at a time when Saudi human rights defenders were incarcerated.
And without mentioning the case of Jamal Khashoggi, torn to pieces in the Saudi consulate in Istabul ”. The story is full of sport as propaganda or as a weapon of mass distraction or as an opportunity to clean up. "It is true - continues Deshmukh - that sportwashing was not invented by the Arabs but no one like Mohammed bin Salman has focused so much on sport to rebuild an image and divert attention from the widespread lack of respect for human rights.
Golfers tempted by these competitions should take some time to consider the dynamics of sportwashing and to think about how to break this mechanism ”.