Is it OK for the European Tour to play in Saudi Arabia?January 30, 2019 The Scoop
As the European Tour hosts the Saudi International, Alex Perry and Steve Carroll discuss if they agree with a country with such a poor human rights record getting a tour event
The European Tour heads to Saudi Arabia for the inaugural Saudi International this week, a tournament that has drawn much controversy for reasons that will become apparent. So should we be OK with the fact the European Tour is headed there? Two of our writers have their say…
Yes, says Alex Perry
I don’t envy the position Keith Pelley and the European Tour have been put in.
It’s so easy for us to sit and say they shouldn’t go there because of all the things that are wrong with Saudi Arabia, of which there are obviously a lot.
But let’s be realistic, on a purely golfing level, the European Tour isn’t really in a position to be turning down their money.
The same European Tour that only makes a profit in Ryder Cup years. The same European Tour that is being propped up by the Middle East and Asia. Only 21 of the 50 events in the 2019 season are on European soil, and you have to wait until six months for the first – the British Masters in May.
I notice the players are taking the brunt of the stick for playing in the event.
Justin Rose was one of a few giving it the PR-approved line of “I’m a golfer, not a politician”, and the critics scream back that the players should take a stand. The same critics, of course, who will be the first to jump on Rose for not “supporting the tour that made him what he is”.
We live in a world where money talks, and Saudi Arabia is hardly the first sporting event to be held in a country with questionable human records rights.
I don’t agree with it, but why get on our high horse now? After all, we’re all OK with golf being played in the USA, a country run by a man separating small children from their parents and keeping them in cages on the Mexican border. A country run by a man who doesn’t believe in climate change. A man who signed a bill banning Muslims from entering the country.
A man who has the backing of a large percentage of PGA Tour players.
Anyway, who cares? We’ll all be watching the Phoenix Open…
No, says Steve Carroll
Those that say that sport and politics don’t mix are idiots. From the Black Panther salute at the ’68 Olympics to the row over NFL players who took the knee during the American national anthem, the two are inextricably linked – and it will always be that way.
The lamentable excuse that’s been trotted out by those lining up at King Abdullah Economic City this week – “I’m a golfer, not a politician” – doesn’t really wash.
Governments host events like this to show off their wealth and their prestige. Golfers play in them to line their pockets.
So when someone’s handing you a fat appearance fee, you can overlook the fact that this regime chops up journalists in consulates, treats women like they’re little more than servants, and cut the heads off 48 people in the first four months of 2018.
“Well we have to earn a crust,” say those not ‘lucky’ enough to be in the pay of the Saudis. There are world ranking points at stake. It’s crucial cash and essential for the Race to Dubai. It could mean the difference between keeping and losing a card.
And what about China, what about Qatar, what about anywhere else where people aren’t treated with the dignity and respect that they should be?
We shouldn’t play there either, right?
No we shouldn’t. And if we’d taken a greater stand here, this new event could have served as a wake-up call to any country that wants to legitimise their atrocities through sport.
I know I’m being hopelessly idealistic, but maybe if getting their wallets out wasn’t enough they might at least consider the possibility of taking a different path.
Anything that can make a difference is worth trying, is it not? As South Africa proved, sporting boycotts can help.
Instead, we’ve got one of the better fields of the year turning out and a picture of players beaming widely as they point out this rancid nation on a map of the globe.
It’s enough to make you weep.