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15th Jan 2022

Andy Murray rejects offer to play in Saudi Arabia over human rights record

Simon Bland

The tennis champ isn’t easily swayed by the big bucks

Tennis icon Andy Murray has reportedly turned down lucrative offers to play exhibition matches in Saudia Arabia due to human rights concerns.

Murray, who is due to compete in the Australian Open later this week, received an offer to fly to Riyadh to play in exhibition matches alongside the potential to earn millions of dollars – yet he turned them down, according to reports.

It’s something that is often offered to premier sports stars; the opportunity to compete in zero-consequence exhibition matches for prize money while not professionally competing.

However according to Murray’s long-time agent, the three-time Grand Slam winner recently received one such request to play in Saudi Arabia – bit didn’t bite.

“He’s turned down stuff in Saudi and I don’t think he would play there just because of what’s gone on,” explained Matt Gentry, co-founder of 77 Sports Management and agent to Murray.

“If he feels strongly about something regardless, he’s at the stage where he will happily call it out and he will have that debate with people. I don’t think he’s scared to voice his opinion on it.”

The news comes shortly after the Spanish Football Federation received backlash for choosing to take its Super Cup to Saudi Arabia – a place where, it has been suggested, is inviting major sporting events in order to divert attention away from its issues related to human rights and equal rights for women.

Gentry elaborated on the rejected offer whilst in Melbourne for the Australian Open: “Exhibition matches, they have done a few over the years where they have paid eyewatering sums of money to get players to come over, and he just wasn’t interested.

“If you are a former No. 1 player in the world in the Middle East you could potentially earn $1 million, $2 million for an exhibition match… this is for the top players, the big global names, and I think golf is probably pretty similar in that respect.”

In men’a golf, the Asian Tour is due to stage its Saudi International in Jeddah in February, offering up a prize of $5m. PIF – the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund – is the title’s primary sponsor and overseen by crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

In 2018, planes owned by a PIF company were believed to have been used for the alleged Saudi assassination squad that travelled to Istanbul to murder the American-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to U.S intelligence, the order to carry out this attack is said to have came from the crown prince – however this claim has been vehemently denied.

The news also comes amid continued issues surrounding unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic who has today been detained in Australia before a court hearing to decide whether or not he can stay in the country, compete in the Australian Open and defend his title.

The controversial Serbian sportsman faces deportation after his visa was once again cancelled for a second time.

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