'Difficult & Challenging Topic': WTA CEO On Saudi Arabia's Involvement

'Difficult & Challenging Topic': WTA CEO On Saudi Arabia's Involvement

by Sebastian Dahlman

While the ATP has engaged in talks with Saudi Arabia about a potential future partnership the WTA is yet to commit to that.

News broke out a few days ago that Saudi Arabia was in formal talks with the ATP about potentially buying into the sport with the news becoming a polarizing topic quickly among fans. Nick Kyrgios came out in support of the move understanding that the prize money will be tremendous at those events with Carlos Alcaraz showing no objection to it either.

Not many players have spoken on it but it's likely that most of them would be on board with the move as plenty of them already played in the country. Andy Murray so far has been the only one that came out against it though his career is in its final stages anyway. The WTA hasn't entered into any negotiations yet per their CEO Steve Simon who spoke to BBC Sport.

"We haven't made any decisions or entered in to any formal negotiations. They're talking to a lot of different sports right now. We're evaluating like everybody else.

The country has a very questionable human rights record with some positive developments lately. Their huge investments into sports have been branded as sports washing which Simon admitted is a very difficult topic. He went to the country himself and saw some progress but there is still work to be done.

It's a very difficult and challenging topic that's being measured by many groups right now. In February I went to Saudi Arabia to see it for myself. We took a couple of players as well. We wanted to see what the change was. There are still issues but the advancement for women's rights and where they are coming from is transformational right now. They have a long way to go, but they've made huge strides.

One of those issues is LGBTQ+ rights which are non-existent. Same-sex relationships are illegal with the punishments for them severe. They include capital punishment, life imprisonment, heavy fines, deportation, flogging as well as chemical castration which was used in the past. Simon referenced that in his talk as the WTA has players that are openly gay.

I want to understand what their perception would be. This is a big one. And it's a controversial one and I value their voice. There are still tonnes of issues in Saudi Arabia, with respect to the LGBTQ+ community there, that have to be done. We have had conversations and we will continue to have conversations.



You may also like