Saudi Arabia to host £2.5m snooker event in 2020

By Sports Desk December 08, 2019

Snooker will join a growing list of sports to have held events in Saudi Arabia after a lucrative £2.5million tournament in Riyadh was added to the 2020-21 season calendar.

On the same weekend Anthony Joshua reclaimed his heavyweight boxing titles by defeating Andy Ruiz Jr in the latest major sporting occasion to be held in the nation, World Snooker confirmed it had agreed a 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority.

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, the father of Joshua's promoter Eddie, hailed the news, which will see a 128-player tournament take place in Riyadh from October 4-10 next year.

"This is a giant leap forward for our sport. We have enjoyed tremendous global expansion over the past decade, particularly in Asia and Europe, and we are thrilled to stage a new and momentous tournament in the Middle East," he said.

"We have a packed calendar throughout the year, which creates a competitive marketplace for new events. Snooker has grown to such an extent that we are now creating exceptional tournaments at this level."

However, the deal is also likely to prompt staunch criticism and accusations of 'sportswashing', with Amnesty International having last week labelled Saudi Arabia's human rights record as "dire", "heinous" and "appalling".

Eddie Hearn defended the decision to hold Joshua's rematch with Ruiz in the country, stating: "Our job is to provide opportunities to the fighters.

"I was driving up and down the road thinking of all the criticism I’ve been getting. And I passed Gucci, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Versace and Ralph Lauren. And although it is easy for us to also say Formula E, the tennis Super Cup, and the PGA Tour is here too, I also believe that no one has the right to tell a fighter how and where they can earn their money.

"The sportswashing thing is something over my head."

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