'I Don't Care' About Sportswashing Accusations - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman

The crown prince responds to claims that the Kingdom is using high-profile events, such as the LIV Golf League, to sportswash its human rights record

Mohammed bin Salman
Mohammed bin Salman has been speaking to Fox News
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman says he does not care about the accusations of 'sportswashing' that have come the Kingdom’s way since it started investing millions of dollars in a number of different sports and events.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is controlled by Bin Salman, has estimated assets of $620bn (£550bn), a pot of money that was used to kick-start the controversial new tour, LIV Golf.

In addition to LIV, PIF led the takeover of Premier league soccer team Newcastle United in 2023. It has also taken ownership of a number of its domestic soccer clubs, and the Saudi Pro League is now attracting many of the sport’s biggest names.

Bin Salman, who was speaking to Fox News' Bret Baier for the Special Report, said: “If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we'll continue doing sportswashing. I don't care [about the term]. I have 1% growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5%. Call it what you want – we are going to get that 1.5%.”

Saudi Arabia has received criticism from around the world for its human rights violations, and campaigners say sport is being used by the Saudi government to distract from long-standing reputation issues.

However, Saudi authorities reject those accusations and say investment in sport is a key part of the country’s 'Vision 2030' strategy.

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell and other LIV Golf players have faced 'sportswashing' questions

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first ever LIV Golf event took place at the Centurion Club in England last June, and most players who joined the circuit were accused of helping Saudi Arabia to ‘sportswash’ its reputation.

Bryson DeChambeau, who captains the Crushers GC LIV Golf League team, called sportswashing claims inaccurate ahead of this year's Australian debut at the Grange GC in Adelaide.

"Well, we talked about that last year, and we already kind of kicked that to the curb," DeChambeau said.

"It's something that I truthfully believe is completely inaccurate. People have their opinions and their perspectives on it, but we certainly don't feel that way. We're playing golf here."

In June of this year, the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, via the Saudi Public Investment Fund that bankrolls it, announced a historic merger in an effort to “unify the game of golf, on a global basis”. 

On the back of this, however, US Senator Richard Blumenthal opened an investigation into the shock merger with PIF requesting further details about the agreement. 

Asked for his opinion on the merger by Baier, Bin Salman, said: "Well that's a game changer for the golf industry. You will now have competition and you will have focus in developing the game. And that's good for the players and the fans who love golf." 

The fallout shows no signs of being resolved and it is still unclear as to what the merger will involve, although LIV Golf continues for the foreseeable future. LIV Golf Chicago commences on 22 September at Rich Harvest Farms. 

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.