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Saudi Arabia ‘are plotting a major push into women’s tennis by bringing a WTA Tour event to the Gulf state’ – as they look to expand their reach following controversial launch of LIV Golf Series as well as profiles in F1 and football
- The WTA have reportedly refused to rule out a possible link up with Saudi Arabia
- The Gulf State have come under fire for alleged human rights abuses
- China were recently criticised by WTA for treatment of tennis star Peng Shuai
Saudi Arabia are reportedly looking to continue their controversial push to expand their sporting reach as they set their sights on a deal involving women’s tennis.
The nation have invested heavily into sport in recent years, with the highly controversial £2billion breakaway LIV Golf Series as well as staging Formula One grands prix and various football projects.
According to the Telegraph, the Women’s Tennis Association declined to rule out a potential link up with the state when contacted.
A spokesperson for the WTA confirmed to the publication that: ‘We have received inquiries from Saudi Arabia as to interest in bringing a WTA event to the region.
‘As a global organisation, we are always interested and appreciative of inquiries received from anywhere in the world and we look seriously at what each opportunity may bring [but] we have not entered into formal negotiations.’
The Saudis have reportedly been seeking a deal with the men’s ATP Tour over the past five years, although they have been knocked back in their approaches and now appear to be changing tact.
However the WTA does not hold the same financial security as its men’s equivalent tour, especially after taking a strong moral stand against China.
The WTA Tour declined to rule out a controversial link up with Saudi Arabia in the future
Chief executive Steve Simon had spoken out against China following the apparent silencing of women’s tennis star Peng Shuai last year, but the admirable principles have hurt access to a key source of funds for the organisation.
Saudi Arabia have also made approaches in the past to offer eye watering amounts of money to star players to play in exhibition matches.
Former British and world No 1 Andy Murray has been one of many top players to reject an offer, turning down £1.5million to play in the country over concerns regarding human rights in the gulf state.
The WTA have previously taken strong moral stands in regards to nation states, criticising China over the alleged silencing of tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured)
Saudi Arabia have been criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for attempting to boost their nation’s reputation by holding global sporting events, a practice known as ‘sports washing.’
Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia while woman’s rights also lag, while journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had frequently criticised the state’s royal family, was brutally murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in 2018.
Murray has long been an advocate of gay rights and women’s rights and his representative Matt Gentry said the Scot had no interest in playing in Saudi Arabia due to the country’s record on human rights.
Andy Murray has previously rejected money spinning offers from the Saudi regime to play
‘He’s turned down stuff in Saudi; I don’t think he will play there just because of what’s gone on,’ Gentry told the podcast SportUnlocked back in January.
‘If he feels strongly about something he will happily call it out. He’s not scared to voice his opinion.
‘They have done a few exhibition matches where they have paid eye-watering sums of money to get players over there and he just wasn’t interested.
‘For turning up and playing a match, if you are a former No 1 player in the world, in the Middle East you could potentially earn $1m to $2m.
‘That’s for the top players, the big global names, and I think golf is pretty similar.’