Saudi Arabia and a new step in sport: what the agreement with the ATP means to “improve tennis globally”

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Saudi Arabia continues its expansion into elite sport. He Public Investment Fund of that country (PIF) and the ATPthe body that governs the professional men’s tennis circuit, announced on Wednesday the signing of a multi-year “strategic collaboration agreement”, which will mark “a significant shared commitment to improve tennis globally”.

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“This agreement will make PIF the official sponsor of the ATP rankingcelebrating the path and progress of the players over the course of the season”, underline both parties in the text, which does not specify the amount that the fund will pay to insert its name in the world ranking – so it already appears on the official bulletin on the organization’s website – and also be connected to some of the most important tournaments on the calendar.

“The PIF will be associated with several tournaments, such as Indian wells, You love me, Madrid, Beijing and the ATP Finals in Turinin addition to Next Generation Finalswhich will be held in Jeddah until 2027,” the statement added.

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The two sides will also work together to “elevate the long-term future of tennis” and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund – one of the largest in the world – will contribute to the OneVision strategic plan of the ATP, which seeks unity and growth with the distribution of bonuses for players or increases in the prize money of the lower category tournaments of the major circuit and the Challengers.

“This strategic collaboration with PIF marks a very important moment for tennis. It is a joint agreement to project this sport into the future,” he said. Massimo Calvelliexecutive general manager of the ATP.

Thanks to this agreement, the PIF will become “a catalyst for the global growth of tennis, developing talent, promoting inclusion and driving sustainable innovation”, he explained. Mohamed AlsayyadHead of corporate affairs of the fund.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in tennis is nothing new. Between the end of November and the beginning of December last year it hosted for the first time an edition of the Next Gen Masters, the competition that brings together the eight best sub-21s of the season and which took place in King Abdullah Sports City from Jeddah.

In the last days of 2023, a large exhibition was held with Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcarazthe Tunisian Hon Jabeur and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka as protagonists, in the context of Riyadh seasonan annual state-funded sports and entertainment festival held since 2019, but for the first time included the sport.

This was also announced in the first weeks of January Rafael Nadal He had become the new ambassador of that country’s Tennis Federation, where the Spaniard intends to install a new headquarters for his academy.

And in early February, the country announced the creation of the “6 Kings Slam(6 Kings Slam, in Spanish), which will bring together none other than Djokovic and Nadal, two of the best players of all time and winners, winners of 46 Grand Slam titles together. Together with the Serbian and the Spanish, they will also present Alcaraz, Daniel Medvedev, Jannik Sinner AND Rune Holgerthe only one of that group who hadn’t yet won a Major.

6 Kings Slam, the tennis exhibition that will be held in Saudi Arabia and will have great protagonists.  Photo Twitter @Turki_alalshikh6 Kings Slam, the tennis exhibition that will be held in Saudi Arabia and will have great protagonists. Photo Twitter @Turki_alalshikh

The ultimate goal of the Saudi “empire” is to become a permanent fixture on the professional circuits. At ATP level he wants to host an important tournament and, skipping the 250 and 500, he is aiming for a 1000 Masters. There are versions that claim that he has already started working on taking over the license for the Madrid or Miami event, which would mean a major blow to the calendar.

She is closer to earning a spot on the women’s tour because she negotiated a deal with the WTA to receive the WTA Finalsthe end-of-season event, which does not yet have a confirmed venue for 2024. A possibility that many important names in tennis – such as Martina Navratilova AND Chris Evert– they do not see favorably, above all due to the culture of gender inequality established in that country and the rejection of homosexuality.

“Organizing a tournament there would represent a major step backwards, to the detriment not only of women’s sport, but of women,” the legendary tennis players wrote in an article published by the newspaper. Washington Post at the end of January.

Another of the great racket stars of recent years, the British Andy Murray, expressed his opinion on the agreement during his participation in the Dubai tournament. “I imagine that it will mean the arrival of a lot of money, but that it will not go to the elites, but that there will be a plan to allocate it to the grassroots, to the levels Futures and the young people, to demonstrate that they really want to take care of this sport and its future. If so, it can be positive,” said the Scotsman.

"If the money that comes from that“If the money that comes from that deal goes to the grassroots, to the lower levels, that can be positive,” Murray said. Photo REUTERS/AMR Alfiky

Since 2021, the PIF has been investing heavily in the world of sport, with the creation of the LIV (Saudi Golf League), direct competition of the traditional PGA Tour; and the purchase of Newcastle UnitedEditone of the historic clubs of English football.

He is also the owner of four clubs in the Saudi league, which has invested almost a billion dollars to attract several big football stars such as the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldothe Brazilian Neymar and French Karim Benzema.

Saudi Arabia was also designated by the FIFA as organizer of 2034 World Cup and for some years it has organized the Grand Prix annually Formula 1another of MotoGP and the Dakar Rally.

Humanitarian associations often report that these investments are part of a campaign “sports wash”with which the country tries to give a better image abroad thanks to sport, despite frequent complaints for failure to respect human rights or environmental issues.

Source: Clarin

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