Controversy Erupts as Saudi Arabia Enters Women’s Tennis Tour

Controversy Erupts as Saudi Arabia Enters Women’s Tennis Tour

Entry into women’s tour Saudi Arabia’s latest deal horrifies tennis legends

May 21, 2024, 7:33 a.m

Next, please: Saudi Arabia is closing the next big deal and will also become a big player in women’s tennis. This not only results in a lot of money, but also criticism.

Saudi Arabia continues to expand its influence in the tennis world. After a deal with the men’s ATP tour, the kingdom is also joining the WTA women’s tour through its sovereign wealth fund PIF. The players’ organization announced this after the contract was signed in New York. As with the men, the PIF (Public Investment Fund) will be the official name partner of the world rankings and will support the tour as a sponsor for an indefinite period (“Multi-Year Partnership”).

Saudi Arabia had already secured the hosting of the WTA finals in April. The tournament for the eight best players of the year will take place in the capital Riyadh until at least 2026. After the Grand Slam tournaments, the event is the most valuable tennis tournament in terms of points and prize money.

The tennis icons Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova had strongly criticized those responsible at the WTA in view of the corresponding speculation. “We didn’t help build women’s tennis so that it could be exploited by Saudi Arabia,” wrote Evert and Navratilova in an article for the Washington Post, criticizing, among other things, the status of women’s rights in the country.

The WTA still concluded the next deal. For Marina Storti, CEO of the organization’s commercial division, an opportunity to “continue to grow the sport, attract more tennis fans and inspire more young people to get involved in the sport.”

Saudi Arabia is active in world sports far beyond tennis. The World Cup is expected to take place there in 2034, the LIV tour caused a split in the scene in the Gulf, major boxing matches such as the heavyweight fight between Alexander Usyk and Tyson Fury on Saturday always take place in Riyadh, and Formula 1 is now also dependent on the Saudi sovereign wealth fund . In tennis, the PIF is also a sponsor of the combined WTA/ATP events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing, and Rafael Nadal is an ambassador for the country. Critics describe the commitment as “sportswashing”.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations have repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for a series of massive human rights abuses, including the killing of hundreds of unarmed Ethiopian migrants last month, the imprisonment of dissidents and women’s rights activists, the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in 2018 and the execution of 81 people on a single day in 2022. Saudi Arabia is accused of wanting to burnish its image by investing billions of dollars in sport.

2024-05-21 05:33:00
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