R&A discussing funding for golf projects in Saudi Arabia as country’s popularity increases.

The R&A is discussing the funding of golf projects in Saudi Arabia, which highlights the kingdom’s growing acceptance in the sport. This has sparked speculation that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) could utilize the Open Championship or Women’s British Open, both owned by the R&A, to expand its presence in golf.
Martin Slumbers, the CEO of the R&A, has been in regular contact with Yasir al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF, for months. They even played together in the Dunhill Links Championship in October, with Rumayyan using an alias.
The R&A’s decision to associate with Saudi Arabia has raised concerns due to the kingdom’s human rights violations, criticized by campaign groups and international organizations. However, the R&A has now confirmed the official nature of its connection with Saudi Arabia. A spokesperson for the governing body informed The Guardian that “Golf Saudi is an affiliated national association of the R&A, and discussions are taking place about us supporting potential development projects.”
Saudi Arabia’s entry into golf through the LIV tour has demonstrated their willingness to invest without limitations. A partnership with the R&A would further dissolve the perception of Saudi Arabia as outsiders in the sport.
Insiders at the R&A claim that there are no current plans for PIF to provide a quid pro quo. However, many remain skeptical as the R&A seeks funding not only for grassroots projects but also for increasing prize funds. In 2023, The Open awarded participants $16.5 million (£13 million), while the Women’s British Open had a value of $9 million (£7.1 million).
During the Open at Royal Liverpool in July, Slumbers acknowledged the “much more rapid acceleration in men’s professional prize money than we had anticipated or planned for.” He emphasized the importance of the financial sustainability of professional golf and ensuring its thriving status in the future. When asked if he would accept PIF funding, Slumbers acknowledged the changing landscape of global sports and stated that they would consider all options within their parameters.
Slumbers, a former banker, is fully aware that Saudi Arabia is investing more money into golf than any other entity. Recently, Jon Rahm signed a deal worth around $100 million per year with LIV. The Saudi PIF, PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and a consortium of American sports teams, led by Fenway Sports, are engaged in discussions aimed at shaping the commercial future of elite golf. There is hope that significant progress can be made by the planned deadline of December 31, although sources within the industry indicate that the window can be extended if necessary. Even if a final agreement is reached, it will still take considerable time to implement the plans.

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