Greg Norman to head up new $200m Saudi-backed series on Asian Tour


[30-10-2021 02:11 PM]

Ammon News - The former world No 1 Greg Norman has been named the new CEO of LIV Golf Investments, which has announced a new 10-tournament series on the Asian Tour from 2022.

Norman said the investment of at least $200m in prize money over the next 10 years “is only the beginning” amid persistent rumours that he will also become the commissioner of a new Saudi-funded breakaway golf league. LIV Golf Investments is a new company backed by the Private Investment Fund which operates on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia.

Norman said: “LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf. The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential.

“We see our promotion of these new events as a vital first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform, rich with playing opportunities that create valuable player pathways.”

Norman previously unveiled plans for a World Golf Tour in 1994, the year after he won the Open Championship for the second time, but they failed to gain enough traction. Talk of a Saudi-backed Super Golf League dominated the buildup to this year’s US PGA Championship, with the 48-year-old Lee Westwood admitting it would be a “no-brainer” to sign a multimillion-pound contract at this stage of his career. In contrast, Rory McIlroy reiterated his opposition and labelled the proposals a “money grab” similar to football’s European Super League, while players have been threatened with bans from established tours and potentially the Ryder Cup if they were to defect.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund recently took an 80% stake in Newcastle United as part of a £305m takeover of the Premier League club.
The deal was the subject of enormous controversy due to the country’s poor human rights record.

The announcement follows a recent 10-year partnership between the Asian Tour and Golf Saudi, which runs the Saudi International, an event formerly part of the European Tour. The 2021 champion, Dustin Johnson, is one of the players to have sought a release from the PGA Tour to defend his title in February.

Commenting on the announcement, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said: “Whether or not this is the harbinger of a future Saudi-backed Golf Super League, it’s yet another example of Saudi Arabia spraying its money around in an attempt to sportswash its appalling human rights record.

“It’s no coincidence that Saudi Arabia’s aggressive move into sport – with major boxing bouts, glitzy golf tours and new football club ownership – has come at a time when Saudi human rights defenders have been jailed, when Saudi missiles have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, and when Jamal Khashoggi was hacked into pieces in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

“Sportswashing wasn’t invented by Saudi Arabia but under Mohammed bin Salman the country is now almost without equal in its brazen efforts to use the glamour and razzamatazz of sport to rebrand itself and distract attention from its human rights record. Golfers tempted to play in these tournaments ought to take the time to consider the dynamics of sportswashing and how they might break its spell by speaking out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

“Once again, Saudi Arabia’s persecuted human rights community will feel bitterly disappointed if well-paid golfing superstars take the LIV Golf Investments money but stay silent about what’s happening in Saudi Arabia.”

*theguardian




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