“As everyone knows, we are working through a process to select a host venue for the WTA Finals,” the WTA said in a statement to The Athletic. “There has been no final decision and we will continue to engage with players through the ongoing process.”
The talks between tour executive Steve Simon and Saudi officials have reportedly been ongoing — a deal was nearly struck last summer, but axed due to public pressure — but an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Athletic that the potential arrangement is “the worst kept secret in the sport.”
Saudi Arabia has been looking to acquire a top tournament since the middle of last year, according to The Athletic. The nation will host the World Cup in 2034.
However, a potential roadblock in securing a deal with the WTA is Saudi Arabia’s history regarding human rights.
The Middle Eastern country doesn’t grant equal rights to its female citizens. Instead, Saudi Arabia has what is called a male guardianship system, where a man will see over a woman’s life from birth to death, among other inequities that do not allow women to be treated fairly at work, in relationships, or by the government.
“I definitely don’t support the situation there,” the U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff said at the Australian Open, “but if we do decide to go there, I hope that we’re able to make change and improve the quality and engage in the local communities and make a difference.”
“We fully appreciate the importance of respecting diverse cultures and religions,” Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova wrote in a Washington Post essay. “It is because of this, and not despite it, that we oppose the awarding of the tour’s crown jewel tournament to Riyadh. The WTA’s values sit in stark contrast to those of the proposed host.”
Billie Jean King, however, supports holding the WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia, “arguing that engagement with the government there is the best way to bring about change,” according to The Athletic.
On the men’s side of the sport, Rafael Nadal is set to become an ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s tennis federation, and Novak Djokovic is in favor of further Saudi investment into the sport, per The Athletic.
Original source here
#Saudi #Arabia #doesnx27t #grant #women #equal #rights #plans #host #WTA #Finals