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Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Saudi Arabia Keeps Buying Into Sports. The WTA Is Resisting, For Now

  • Saudi Arabia is pushing to host next year's WTA Finals.
  • That deal and efforts in professional golf face significant delays.
Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Saudi Arabia has been crystal clear in its intentions to buy into as many pro sports outfits as possible — but sealing lucrative deals isn’t as easy as it looks.

Several British media outlets recently reported that the 2024 WTA Finals will be held in the Middle East nation as part of a major deal surrounding the season-ending event of tennis’ top women’s tour. 

However, the WTA tells Reuters that no decision has been made about a venue or location for next November’s tournament. “We are in discussions with various groups surrounding the 2024 WTA Finals and beyond,” a WTA spokesperson said.

The interest from Saudi Arabia isn’t surprising: In 2022, the Saudi Public Investment Fund tried to invest in the WTA before the tour accepted a $150 million deal with CVC Capital Partners. The PIF has also backed Formula 1, LIV Golf, Newcastle United, and the Saudi Pro League. Saudi Arabia will host the 2034 FIFA World Cup, all while the country deals with continued criticisms around sportswashing given its poor human rights record.

Right now, the WTA Finals are the only event on the tour’s 2024 calendar without a set location. The finals have been searching for a long-term host since a 10-year deal with the Chinese city of Shenzhen fell through after the pandemic and the Peng Shuai saga. This year’s finals were held in Cancun.

Money Talks?

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to partner with the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour continue to move at a slow pace, but the PIF keeps pouring money into LIV Golf, which just signed Jon Rahm to a contract believed to be worth more than $500 million.

However, a recent report from Sports Illustrated indicates that the PIF was willing to fund a $1 billion equalization pool for PGA Tour players that had turned down LIV offers. That money would have been added to the $1 billion-plus investment PIF is trying to make in the PGA Tour.

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