WTA signs multi-year partnership with Saudi PIF

May 21, 2024 4:01 pm

[Source: Reuters]

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) will become the first-ever naming partner of the WTA’s rankings, the two organisations announced, as part of a multi-year partnership.

The announcement marks the PIF’s latest foray into tennis, after the men’s ATP tour also signed a multi-year “strategic partnership” earlier this year.

“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,” WTA Ventures CEO Marina Storti said in a statement.

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The announcement marks the latest move in a dramatic shift by the women’s tour, which was previously reluctant to embrace Saudi partnership.

Outgoing CEO Steve Simon said last year that Saudi Arabia posed “big issues” as a host for women’s tennis events.

But it was announced in April that the season-ending WTA Finals will be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh from 2024-2026, with the Saudi Tennis Federation offering record prize money of $15.25 million this year.

The announcement came despite pushback from retired greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, while Russian Daria Kasatkina, who came out as gay in 2022, also expressed reservations .

Women’s rights activists and members of the LGBTQ community accused the country of “sports-washing”, criticising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as it pumps huge amounts of money into soccer, Formula One and the LIV Golf circuit.

Mohamed AlSayyad, head of corporate brand at PIF, said the organisation would “continue to be a catalyst for the growth of women’s sport.”

“We look forward to working with the WTA to increase participation and inspire the next generation of talent,” he said in a statement.