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PIF to sponsor women’s world tennis rankings

Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures, front right, and Kevin Foster, head of communications at PIF, front left, at the signing of the sponsorship agreement between the two PIF
Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures, front right, and Kevin Foster, head of communications at PIF, front left, at the signing of the sponsorship agreement between the two
  • Latest in kingdom’s sport sponsorships
  • ‘Promotes active lifestyles to women’
  • Moves ‘outpace Oman and UAE’

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is giving its name to the women’s world tennis rankings, the latest sponsorship deal in the kingdom’s drive to dominate global sports. 

“The PIF WTA Rankings will track players’ journeys, and PIF will work with the WTA to celebrate and support players’ progress,” PIF said, calling the deal “multi-year”. 

The partnership will “grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game,” it said, without stating how much PIF had paid. 

The $900 billion sovereign wealth fund became the official naming partner of the men’s tennis rankings in February. 

In April the WTA said Riyadh would host the Women’s Tennis Association finals for the next three years, with record total prize money of $15 million, which will increase each year. 

Simon Chadwick of the Skema Business School in Paris said: “An important dimension of this is the promotion of active lifestyles among women in the kingdom.” 

Saudi Arabia’s massive push into sports has seen it invest in golf, snooker, Formula 1, boxing, mixed martial arts and baseball as part of plans to shift the country’s economy away from a reliance on hydrocarbons, change the country’s image and improve health in a country long plagued by high obesity and diabetes

Last week, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk fought for the heavyweight boxing world title in Riyadh, the latest in a series of high-profile global sports events in the Saudi capital this year.  

The sponsorship deals appear to have outpaced moves in the global sports arena by Qatar and the UAE, said James Dorsey, author of a book on Middle East sport. 

“It’s the biggest Middle East push into international sports,” he said. 

“It dwarfs what the UAE started in 2008 with the acquisition of Manchester City, and although the Qataris had the 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia will have it in 2034.”

Fifa is expected to declare Saudi Arabia host of the world’s biggest sports event later this year after Riyadh presented the sole bid. 

Dorsey said a lack of public interest in niche sports such as snooker, golf and polo was no bar to their promotion.  

“The fact of one sport or another not being popular or known is not carved in stone. It could become popular if you put the resources into it,” he said. 

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