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Andy Murray turned down offers up to £1.5million to play in Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns

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Andy Murray turned down offers up to £1.5million to play in Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns as tennis star’s representative insists he is not interested in ‘eye-watering sums of money’ on offer from gulf state

  • Andy Murray rejected big-money offers to play tennis matches in Saudi Arabia
  • Adviser Matt Gentry said human rights concerns influenced Murray’s decision 
  • ‘I don’t think he will play there just because of what’s gone on,’ Gentry said
  • Saudi Arabia has recently hosted football, Formula One, boxing and golf events


Andy Murray rejected the chance to play money-spinning exhibition matches in Saudi Arabia over concerns about human rights in the gulf state.

Organisers have offered tennis stars including Murray up to £1.5million to play in Saudi Arabia, which has stepped up its pursuit of top sporting events in recent years. 

The events have been fiercely criticised by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, however, for attempting to cleanse the nation’s reputation on the international stage, a practice described as ‘sports washing’.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia while woman’s rights also lag. Human Rights Watch also released a report last week on Saudi Arabia’s repression of critics. 

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had frequently criticised the state’s royal family, was brutally murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in 2018. The Biden administration released a declassified report last year by U.S. intelligence concluding that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman ‘approved’ the operation. 

Andy Murray turned down the chance to earn up to £1.5million to play in Saudi Arabia

Andy Murray turned down the chance to earn up to £1.5million to play in Saudi Arabia

Real Madrid's recent clash with Barcelona is one of many sporting events to be held in Saudi

Real Madrid’s recent clash with Barcelona is one of many sporting events to be held in Saudi

Murray has long been an advocate of gay rights and women’s rights and his representative Matt Gentry said the Scot had no interest in playing in Saudi Arabia due to the country’s record on human rights.  

‘He’s turned down stuff in Saudi; I don’t think he will play there just because of what’s gone on,’ Gentry told the podcast SportUnlocked.   

‘If he feels strongly about something he will happily call it out. He’s not scared to voice his opinion. 

‘They have done a few exhibition matches where they have paid eye-watering sums of money to get players over there and he just wasn’t interested.

‘For turning up and playing a match, if you are a former No 1 player in the world, in the Middle East you could potentially earn $1 million to $2 million.  

Murray has shown his support for gay rights and been a strong advocate of the women's game

Murray has shown his support for gay rights and been a strong advocate of the women’s game

'I don't think he will play there just because of what's gone on,' Murray's representative said

‘I don’t think he will play there just because of what’s gone on,’ Murray’s representative said

‘That’s for the top players, the big global names, and I think golf is pretty similar.’

Murray played his first ATP tour final in over two years on Saturday after reaching the showpiece of the Sydney Tennis Classic but the Scot was beaten in straight sets by Aslan Karatsev.

Saudi Arabia held its first ever Formula One grand prix in December while it has also hosted tennis, golf and boxing events, including Anthony Joshua’s re-match with Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019.   

The Spanish Super Cup involving Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid is being held in the nation’s capital Riyadh at the moment while Barcelona faced Boca Juniors in a recent friendly there last month.

Human rights groups criticised the Saudi state's takeover of Newcastle United last year

Human rights groups criticised the Saudi state’s takeover of Newcastle United last year

Amnesty urged players participating in the Super Cup to use their platform to show their support for social causes in Saudi Arabia although the tournament has so far passed without any notable protests from players.

Athletic Bilbao forward Raul Garcia was a lone voice in criticising moving the competition from Spain to Saudi Arabia, although he only expressed concerns about taking the competition away from its traditional home and did not mention the gulf state’s record on human rights.

Human rights groups have also criticised the takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. 

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