Commissioner Defends Saudi Arabia Tour Event

The discussion about the ethical merits of hosting a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia continued this week as the Tour’s commissioner, Keith Pelley, announced that the event would be on the schedule in 2020 as well.

The event, which was shrouded in controversy given the Middle Eastern’s country’s poor human rights record, received backlash from fans, media and even some players.

However, Pelley told Reuters on Thursday that the European Tour competing there as still “the right decision.”

“It was the right decision for our tour,” Pelley  said. “We will be back in Saudi, and we’ll continue to grow that event. We believe our role will help the evolution of the country.”

Pelley went on to say he was “perplexed” as to why golf has been singled out for a questionable decision when other athletes and celebrities took money from the regime without as much blowback. 

“After the incident (the murder of American-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey in October), many blue-chip businesses and many governments continued to do business in Saudi, (and the) entertainment business is still flourishing,” Pelley said. “There was Italian Super Cup with AC Milan and Juventus (in January) and Ronaldo scored the winning goal and celebrated, and we tried to find any kind of criticism for Ronaldo, yet our players were criticized.

“Why was golf singled out? I was perplexed why we were. I went over there first and listened to his Excellency (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) at a sports conference, talk about how the country wanted to change, needed to change, wanted to use sports as a catalyst, was committed to golf.”

The country’s connection to golf was brought to light again this past week as Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth faced backlash after announcing a partnership with Golf Saudi. 

The pro deleted her social media posts touting the deal, but there has been no official word as to an end of the partnership.