For the love of ‘sportswashing’; LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia’s push for legitimacy in elite sport

Leon Davis, Daniel Plumley, Rob Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: The purpose of this article is to provide an understanding of the
emergence of LIV Golf, a new tour in the sport of professional golf, funded
by finances from the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth, the Public Investment
Fund (PIF).
Approach: Constructed through a range of theoretical concepts and media
information, this article explains the concept and format of LIV Golf, traced
through the economic structures of professional team sports, the emergence
of breakaway competitions and the use of sport to leverage and legitimise
what has been termed as a “soft power” approach.
Findings: This article explores the wider strategy of the PIF in relation to LIV
Golf with consideration of Saudi Arabia’s quest for legitimacy on the global
sporting stage. We explore how the LIV tour has brought the concept of
sportswashing into sharp focus, whilst fracturing men’s professional golf and
becoming a threat to the dominant PGA Tour. We provide insights into what
this might mean for golf and other sports in the future.
Research Contribution: This article provides new insight into how a
government is using the sports faction of its entity to legitimise itself in a
global sport. We also discuss the concept of sportswashing, which has been
under researched in academic studies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalManaging Sport and Leisure
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2023


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