/ 13 May 2022

The Shark is hunted over Saudi stance

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

Aussie golfing great Greg Norman is in hot water over his defence of Saudi Arabia, saying “we’ve all made mistakes” when asked about the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Norman, who is at the forefront of setting up a rebel golf tour backed by Saudi Arabia, said he’d heard about the killing, but he “just kept moving on.” Overnight, Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz asked“Would you say that if it was your loved one? How can we go forward when those who ordered the murder are still unpunished and continue to try to buy back their legitimacy?” And the company Norman heads tried to mop things up with a statement saying: “The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was reprehensible. Everyone agrees on that, including Greg”.

Umm, there’s a lot going on there…
There sure is. Let’s start with a reminder on the Khashoggi case… He was the journalist who entered a Saudi consulate building in Turkey in October 2018, where he was killed and dismembered. American intelligence concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing – a claim he continues to deny. As for Norman, he is the chief executive of LIV Golf, which is the company that’s attempting to disrupt the major professional golf tours in the US and Europe. Yesterday, he announced more money for the competition from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund controlled by the Prince. It will be used to fund an 8-tournament series – each worth circa $255 million in prize money – with the first teeing off in London early next month. The development of the comp has seen the Saudis accused of ‘sportswashing’ – aka when a government uses sport to take the attention away from their poor human rights record.

What happens next?
This week, the organisers of the US and European tours again said they will suspend players who defect to Norman’s LIV Golf series. That hasn’t stopped Norman from targeting golf’s best-known players to join the tour, and he says that 19 of the top 100 players have committed to play in the first tournament. Golfing heavyweight Phil Mickelson is on the starting list, as is former world #1 Lee Westwood – but most have distanced themselves from it. Norman’s series is offering the richest purses in pro golf history, so it’s a lot for some to walk past…

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