Why Fans Were Left Unimpressed By The Saudi International Coverage
The Saudi International is an Asian Tour golf event organised at the King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia. It was set up in 2019 as a European Tour event and was the first European Tour tournament played in Saudi Arabia. It has drawn a lot of criticism due to the Saudi government’s involvement, as they are known for human rights abuses and are widely accused of sportswashing.
The tournament was no longer a European Tour event after 2021, so the PGA Tour announced last year that no members would be allowed to partake in future editions. Eventually, Saudi International was announced as a part of the Asian Tour’s schedule. In addition, the event is now the Asian Tour’s flagship tournament. Golf fans were highly displeased with the coverage of this year’s Saudi International on the Asian Tour, irrespective of the strong group of players that partook in it. Here’s why fans were left unimpressed by the Saudi International coverage this year.
The 2022 Saudi International
The Saudi International started as an Asian Tour event on February 3. This was the event’s fourth edition, and it had constituted the European Tour since 2019 before parting ways due to the ongoing Saudi-powered Super Golf League saga. The event had a total purse of $5 million, a notable improvement from last year’s $3.5m. This cash increase is all down to investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the largest sovereign wealth funds globally.
The landmark occasion brought together some of the biggest names in golf across different generations to the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, near Jeddah. Initially, Jay Monahan and Keith Pelley, heads of the PGA and DP World Tours, respectively, threatened golfers with possible bans and suspensions if they participated in the end. However, they eventually had to compromise and give some of their biggest stars conditional releases. Consequently, the tournament was graced by world-class players like:
- Abraham Ancer
- Adri Arnaus
- Bryson DeChambeau
- Jason Dufner
- Dustin Johnson
- Jason Kokrak
- Phil Mickelson
- Kevin Na
- Joaquin Niemann
- Louis Oosthuizen
- Ian Poulter
- Harold Varner III
- Bubba Watson
- Lee Westwood
- Viraj Madappa
- Wade Ormsby
Fans Disappointed By The Saudi International Coverage
It is easy to understand many golf fans’ frustrations with this year’s Saudi International coverage. After all, they all heard rumours of some of the world’s most elite golfers being flown into Saudi Arabia on luxury jets. Additionally, it is no secret that these players have been offered huge sums of cash to renounce their allegiance to the DP World Tour and PGA Tour. Therefore, these fans were undoubtedly expecting an incredible event with amazing coverage.
Sky Sports was no longer broadcasting the event since it was under the Asian Tour’s umbrella after being ditched by the DP World Tour. As such, the free-to-air British sports channel Freesports acquired the event’s broadcasting rights, leaving fans excited at the prospect of free live golf. Golf was not yet present on free-to-air TV, so UK viewers were naturally looking forward to enjoying 19 hours of live coverage throughout the weekend, including highlights. Mr Majed Al-Sorour, Deputy Chairman and CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, revealed that the young tournament would be made available and accessible for a wider audience through platforms like Freesports. This way, golf fans worldwide would get a chance to witness the world-class international event for free.
- The event is not free- The promise of free golf turned out to be false because it wasn’t free. Ardent golf fans in the UK and Ireland were bewildered when coverage of the event was stopped at 10 am UK time on the first day. Then, Premier sports, owners of FreeSports, demanded a subscription fee of £12.99 monthly. Although Saturday and Sunday’s action was free to view, fans were quite disappointed because they had anticipated 100% free live action without any hidden subscription fees.
- Not enough highlights- Fans seeking to place some great golf bets based on key highlights from the event were left bitterly disappointed. It is no secret that highlights are essential to punters since they offer crucial information concerning tournaments and who is worth backing based on form. Sadly, there was a notable lack of highlights coverage from the event. Tournaments like the PGA and DP World Tours are known for regularly posting highlights to social media and YouTube, so many golf fans are used to watching them.
Many fans took to social media to voice their displeasure with several other aspects of the tournament’s coverage. Some mentioned front-facing camera angles for tee shots, while others complained about the many tweeting birds in the background and lack of a reliable leaderboard. Quality content is crucial to ensuring that viewers remain engaged, and Saudi International blew a huge chance to establish itself this way. Many incredible golfers were at the event, and the Asian Tour could have readily used this tournament to get some goodwill from golf fans worldwide. This goodwill would have come in handy for any plans for the Super Golf League and the growth of the Asian tour.
Perhaps the problematic coverage of Saudi International is proof that having excess money does not guarantee a great product. Still, there is a lot of room for improvement since it is early days. However, the Asian Tour’s TV coverage must undoubtedly improve if it wants to compete with golf’s leading circuits.