Pelley: European Tour will go to Saudi Arabia again in 2020, despite criticism
Keith Pelley, chief executive of golf’s European Tour, has insisted that Saudi Arabia will remain on the schedule in 2020 despite criticism of the decision to stage a tournament there this January.
Pelley said that he was “perplexed” at the criticism.
The European Tour staged its inaugural Saudi Arabia tournament months after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in October 2018, and some observers thought that the murder, in addition to the country’s human rights record in general, made the decision to host a golf tournament there inappropriate.
However, Pelley told Reuters: “It was the right decision for our tour. 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.”
The Canadian executive added: “After the incident [murder], many blue-chip businesses and many governments continued to do business in Saudi, [and the] entertainment business is still flourishing.
“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.”
Italian soccer's Serie A was also heavily criticised for staging the Supercoppa bertween AC Milan and Juventus in Saudi Arabia in January, while the RFEF, the Spanish soccer federation, is considering an offer to take its annual match to the country in a multi-year deal.
The European Tour is increasingly seeking lucrative tournaments for its schedule to stave off the threat of players joining USA's richer PGA Tour.
Saudi Arabia offered prize money of $3.5 million to the winner, Dustin Johnson, as well as large appearance fees to those who took part.