The Saudi Golf Tour Is Blatant ‘Sportswashing’

From June 9 to 11, LIV Golf staged its first tournament, at the Centurion Club, outside London. The winner was Charl Schwartzel, the South African star (who won the 2011 Masters).

“LIV Golf”? Yes, otherwise known as “the Saudi Golf Tour.” It is funded by the PIF—the public investment fund, or sovereign wealth fund—of the Saudi government. The chairman of the fund is Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, who effectively functions as dictator of the country. The CEO of the new tour is Greg Norman, the veteran Australian golfer, aka the Great White Shark.

What does “LIV” stand for? It is not an acronym. It is a Roman numeral, alluding to the fact that tournaments on the tour will be played in three rounds, or 54 holes. Traditional tournaments, such as those on the PGA Tour, are four rounds, or 72 holes.

These details aside, the Saudi government is engaged in “sportswashing.” This is the practice whereby bad actors try to clean up their reputations through involvement in sports. The Chinese are master sportswashers, as they have proved in their Olympic Games, and the Saudis are pretty good at it too. In addition to their golf league, they own a Premier League soccer club, the one in Newcastle.

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