Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has responded to accusations that his country is 'sportswashing' in order to try and improve its international reputation, saying that he does not care.
Salman has overseen spending on sports since he rose to power and became the de facto leader in Saudi Arabia six years ago. Since then the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has total estimated assets of over $700 billion, has spent an unprecedented amount on sports.
This spending is part of the country's plan Vision 2030, through which it is attempting to overcome its dependence on non-sustainable sources of wealth, specifically fossil fuels.
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Saudi Arabia's involvement in tennis
Saudi Arabia has been investing in multiple sports over recent years. Most notably, their LIV Golf league merged with the PGA Tour to mean that the country essentially owns the sport of golf.
They have also had a huge impact on football, bringing in big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar to the Saudi Pro League. They also own an 80% stake in the English Premier League club Newcastle United.
Therefore, it is little surprise that the country has also been getting involved in tennis, brokering a five-year deal to host the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah until 2027. They also put in a bid to host the WTA Finals in the capital city Riyadh, but the WTA ultimately opted for Cancun, Mexico, instead.
Sportswashing accusations and crown prince response
As a result of this investment, Saudi Arabia has been accused of 'sportswashing' in an effort to distract the global stage from its poor human rights record. This includes restrictions on women's freedom and the fact that homosexual activity is illegal in the country, as well as the carrying out of mass executions in recent years.
Prince Mohammed spoke to Fox News in his first-ever all-English interview, during which he attempted to explain the motivations behind the country's investment in sports and said that he didn't care about sportswashing accusations.
"If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we'll continue doing sportswashing. I don't care (about the term). I have 1% growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5%. Call it what you want - we are going to get that 1.5%," he said.