The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund has been involved in all kinds of sports ventures lately. But John McEnroe says tennis should not be involved.
McEnroe, never one to be afraid to speak his mind, thankfully, said during an ESPN conference call that after what happened with golf, tennis shouldn’t think of having the same kind of drama. You might remember the fiasco of the Saudi PIF and the PGA, correct? After the PGA fought to keep players from leaving for LIV (the Saudi PIF gold league), the PGA suddenly, without telling its players beforehand that, merged with LIV.
Tennis could go the same way and some players have already said they’d be interested in taking part in a Saudi PIF tennis league. This included Nick Kyrgios and top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz. Of course, professional tennis players play the sport as that is their means of income. I guess one cannot blame someone making a living for maximizing all their opportunities.
John McEnroe speaks out against Saudi PIF potential
But it gets complicated when a nation is throwing money at a sport and that sport isn’t otherwise normally a big player. Money has a way of changing things and those with the money have a much greater say over what occurs. Plus, some players won’t want to play in Saudi Arabia. Andy Murray has already said he may not.
McEnroe said in the conference call
"At the same time the people that are complaining about it, a lot of the people are hypocrites because our government does business with them along with tons of other hedge funds, wealth funds, down the list, people that have dealings. What about Ronaldo? He’s being paid a couple hundred million a year. They have been buying players in other sports, bought boxing fights, you name it…I don’t think that’s something that (tennis) should be pursuing, per se."
It gets complicated, of course. If the ATP and WTA decided to hold tournaments in Saudi Arabia, that’s one thing. Even then there is a gray area, based on some reported human rights violations the Saudi kingdom has done, whether tournaments should be held there.
But if the Saudi PIF is simply trying to start its own league, that’s not right. It could also tear tennis in two. And speaking as a fan of the sport, I don’t want that to happen.