Golf, Saudi money and sportswashing

Human rights and professional sport

Sir, – Padraig Harrington has used the example of the Magdalene laundries as a way of rationalising Saudi Arabia’s right to involve itself in the world of professional golf (“Padraig Harrington reacts to LIV and PGA merger: ‘My country thought it acceptable to lock up unmarried mothers’”, Sport, June 7th). The inference being that we in this country can not be too critical of other countries human rights records when we have our own skeletons in the cupboard. The Magdalene laundries were and remain an appalling stain on our history but to compare this in any way with what exists on a daily basis in Saudi Arabia is wholly mistaken. Among numerous human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, one example will make the point. On March 12th, 2022, 81 people were executed. It is such acts of barbarity that have persuaded many that the imminent takeover of professional golf by this appalling regime is wrong on every front. Padraig has earned his place as a global golfing figure but he really needs to be careful when drawing parallels between Ireland’s history and the ongoing regime of murder, torture, and intimidation in Saudi Arabia. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – One has to admire the exquisite sensibility shown by the US PGA in its announcement of the “merger” of three golf tours. Its press release includes 13 references to “The Public Investment Fund” (PIF) but not a single one to Saudi Arabia. A less-than-avid sports fan might be forgiven for thinking that the public investment fund of New Zealand, Belgium or Ireland (the last of these soon to be launched on the world) has revealed a hitherto unsuspected interest in golf investment. But when the PGA uses the term “Public Investment Fund”, Saudi Arabia, like the verb in Horace, is to be understood.


One of the terms of the deal is that there will be an end to all pending litigation. This is a disappointment. I was looking forward to seeing how PIF would square the circle of arguing sovereign immunity in the US litigation with the PGA, having assured those charged with approving changes of ownership of English Premier League football teams that PIF, as the new owner of Newcastle United, is independent of the sovereign state of Saudi Arabia. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – The merger between the Saudi-funded LIV Tour and the PGA and DP World Tours suggests an incentive to the organisers of the latter two tours to persuade them to join. Perhaps the provision of free sand for all bunkers on all their golf courses worldwide? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Surely it can only be a matter of time before the Saudis close in on the GAA? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.