Blood Money and the LIV Golf Tournament – OpEd – Eurasia Review
It’s been Greg Norman’s workhorse for years: a menacing, alternative golf tournament to attract the stars and undermine the moldy establishment. Carrying out a most dubious project, the LIV Tournament has become the greatest symbol of blood money. Funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this is the loudest statement in sportswashing.
Some aspects of this are also a bit grim. Last month the the wall street journal revealed details of a draft LIV contract that has been offered to players. The contract provisions include requirements for players to wear LIV apparel when participating in LIV and non-LIV events. Non-LIV logos, at least for the most part, must be approved by management. This also covers logos used on branded products that may be used at events. The terms of the contract state an exception: players may wear “the branding of a third-party golf equipment supplier on the side of their hat.”
Steering claws also go further than logo endorsements. A tight rein is kept on player interviews regarding a “league event or activity”. Participation in the tournament also comes with a condition of proselytism: recruited golfers will in turn recruit other golfers for the tournament. Players must agree “upon request, to assist the league operator in seeking to persuade players to enter into multi-year participation agreements with the league operator”.
The first three events of the LIV Invitational saw a rich splash of $25 million in individual and team prizes. No participant won less than $120,000. It has also been reported that a number of golfers with profiles – Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka – have signed eight- and nine-figure contracts. In one of the tournaments under the LIV umbrella, the eventual winner, Henrik Stenson, was left $4 million richer.
The success of such operations relies less on intelligence and integrity than on gain and inflated bank balances. If PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was hoping for anything more than that, he was seriously misreading the mood. Hank Haney, the former coach of Tiger Woods, considers LIV Golf “ideal for players who left and for players who stayed”. He suggested that the tournament format coexist with the PGA Tour. Norman, for his part, filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour, claiming that his actions in banning participants from participating in his competition are unlawful.
Woods himself has raised a number of suspicions for his opposition to LIV, after he turned down an offer of $700-800 million from the Saudis. Barely a moralist, though a keen student of the game, he’s tasked by the PGA Tour establishment with coming up with a counterattack format. Like Alan Shipnuck, writing in golf summary asks, “what’s the payoff for Woods to go all-in with the PGA Tour?” Better not to ask.
It’s the kind of amoral mindset that conveniently ignores how a collection of murderous kleptocrats building oil-rich skyscrapers have globalized their footprint in a number of sports as part of the prince’s ‘2030 Vision’. heir Mohammad bin Salman.
This year London-based human rights organization Grant Liberty published a report noting that the Kingdom had spent something in the region of $2.1 billion on a number of sporting events international markets and the acquisition of sporting assets, such as the Newcastle United football team. Regarding the latter, Abdullah al Ghamdi, based in the UK in exile, appealed “to all football fans and players at St James Park to put pressure on the Saudi government to release all victims of its relentless repression”.
This sportswashing scheme is accelerating even as theocrats pursue internal repressive policies against their citizens, despite the Crown Prince’s reformist claims. The House of Saud has also proven to be a staunch pursuer of dissident citizens in other jurisdictions, as evidenced by the savage butchering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The link between this horrific assassination and the crown prince was confirmed by US intelligence officials in an unclassified report released in February last year. The report found that bin Salman controlled “decision-making in the Kingdom” and supported “violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi”.
In terms of foreign policy, Riyadh continues to sponsor humanitarian misery in its fierce war in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthis. The conflict in Yemen, which has seen the displacement of a million people, the threat of famine, drug shortages and cholera outbreaks, has been almost forgotten by those in Washington, Canberra and various European capitals, transfixed by everything Russian. With the war in Ukraine, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has been anointed the ubiquitous bogeyman and oppressor, while the rogue antics of petulant bin Salman slip quietly under the radar and under the radar.
Sports personalities everywhere should be wary of a regime that uses money to cover up the bodies of imprisoned protesters, tormented and missing activists and murdered journalists. But Riyadh has his number, slyly seductive, and aware of an eternal weakness. With its vast sovereign wealth fund, the Kingdom is ready to spend and sports personalities are ready to be bought. They know the prostitute’s score.