Even if you’re not a golfing fiend that likes to spend the entirety of the weekend on the green, sinking more beers than you do putts, it’s likely that you’ve caught wind of the golfing tour that has the world of sport divided: LIV Golf. The invitational series has officially arrived and while it’s certainly brought a sense of levity to what was otherwise a traditional game favoured by those dressed to impress in immaculate pressed polos and pants, the new energy ushered by LIV Golf hasn’t been welcomed by all.
For the uninitiated, LIV Golf is fronted by former World No. 1 and two-time major winner, Greg Norman. The Saudi-backed sports league has, since its inception, managed to lure some of the biggest names in the sport, all thanks to massive payouts and exorbitant appearance fees. Unlike the PGA Tour which doesn’t allow for appearance fees, the LIV system presents players with a greater opportunity for financial gain for all involved – not just thew inners. As Norman explained to Carlson, “Our model is 100 per cent built around the golf ecosystem from the ground up.”
Now, it appears the NSW government is “ready and willing” to have discussions with Norman as they look to bring the tour to Sydney, according to reports from the sports minister. Though controversial, minister Alister Henskens has confirmed that he was open to hosting the rebel series on Australian soil as he told The Guardian, “With some of the bet courses in Australia, NSW is the perfect place to host major golf tournaments.”
“We are ready and willing to have discussions about bringing more professional tour events to NSW.”
Norman has also expressed his interest in bringing the tournament Down Under, having been quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying unnamed governments were “putting taxpayers’ money on the table” in an effort to secure the tour in Australia. He added that “conversations have been had” and negotiations “will probably pick up here in the next week.”
As Henskens expressed in a statement, NSW is on a mission to “attract the biggest and best events to our state.” He added, “NSW has more than 166,000 registered golfers, upwards of 370 courses and the game has an economic impact of about $1.3bn annually to the NSW economy.”
While it might prove an exciting prospect for golf fans who would have the opportunity to see some of the best play in the tournament, such as Open-winning Australian Cameron Smith, the fact is that the human rights issues surrounding the tournament are hard to ignore. As groups like Amnesty International have been quick to suggest, Norman and the golfers who are signed up to the series are effectively sportswashing, in that they are participating in a tournament that sees sport being used by an oppressive government to legitimise their regimes and distract from human rights abuses.