WTA enters ‘multi-year partnership’ with Saudi Arabia’s PIF after landing Tour Finals… as sovereign wealth fund continues their tennis takeover with rankings sponsorship

  • The Kingdom confirmed last month that the WTA finals will be held in Riyadh 
  • The PIF previously inked a deal with ATP to sponsor the men’s rankings  
  • Saudi’s poor women’s rights record has been brought under increased scrutiny 

The odd-couple alliance between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the women’s tennis association has been strengthened as the two unveiled a ‘multi-year partnership’.

Last month the Kingdom confirmed the best-kept secret in tennis that the WTA Finals event would be held in Riyadh for the next three years. And now the Saudi’s PIF will sponsor the WTA’s rankings – they already sponsor the men’s rankings – in addition to a more vague brief to ‘support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game’.

The increasingly close link between the highest profile women’s sport in the world and a country with a terrible record on women’s rights is hard to reconcile.

Legendary players Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert united to call the plans to stage the WTA final in Riyadh ‘a significant step backward, to the detriment not just of women’s sport, but women’.

But their strident opposition has not been echoed by the current generation. Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, twice Wimbledon runner-up and a huge sporting figure in the Arab world, expressed her delight that the tournament would be held in Saudi.

Women’s tennis has signed a multi-year partnership with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (pictured: Kevin Foster, PIF Head of Corporate Affairs and WTA’s Marina Storti)

Chris Evert (left) and Martina Navratilova (right) have both criticised the Kingdom's investment

Chris Evert (left) and Martina Navratilova (right) have both criticised the Kingdom’s investment

Ons Jabeur is one of a number of players to welcome Saudi Arabia's involvement in the sport

Ons Jabeur is one of a number of players to welcome Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the sport

And while there is a degree of discomfort felt by some players, there is a realisation that they cannot argue vociferously for greater prize money and investment while at the same time spurning the Saudi riyal.

Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome PIF as a Global Partner of the WTA and our first-ever official naming partner of the WTA Rankings. 

‘Together, we look forward to sharing the journey of our talented players across the season, as we continue to grow the sport, creating more fans of tennis and inspiring more young people to take up the game.’

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