Sports bodies should be ‘wary’ of big money at pro level, warns Micheál Martin

Sports Bodies Should Be ‘Wary’ Of Big Money At Pro Level, Warns Micheál Martin
Micheál Martin was asked about the Government’s response to the announcement of a major merger in professional golf. Photo: PA
Share this article

By Claudia Savage, PA

Sporting organisations need to be “wary” of the amount of money at play at the professional level, the Tánaiste has said.

Micheál Martin visited Belfast on Wednesday where he was asked about the Government’s response to the announcement of a major merger in professional golf.


Pro-golf players and fans were shocked when it was announced on Tuesday that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour were merging their commercial operations with the golf-related businesses of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which bankrolls LIV golf.

Co Down golfer Rory McIlroy had established himself as a supporter of the PGA Tour alongside fellow player Tiger Woods.

Critics of the Saudi regime say that takeovers in the sporting world are an attempt by the country to “sportswash” its international reputation of human rights abuses.

Mr Martin said the Government aims to hold all countries to account on human rights issues, but that the takeover represented a wider problem of huge amounts of money in sports.


“We have concerns with the human rights framework within Saudi Arabia, but we’ve articulated that, frankly, through our ambassadors and on a government to government basis, on an ongoing basis and so on, and we trade with Saudi Arabia although it’s limited enough,” he said.

“And we work in international fora, and endeavour to hold all countries to account in respect of human rights.

“I think more generally, it’s a matter for the golfing fraternity and professional organisations, but I think sports in general, and sporting organisations in general should be wary of the enormous amounts of funds and money that’s going into sports at this level.”

Northern Ireland talks
Tánaiste Micheál Martin arriving to the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast to speak to some of Stormont’s main political parties. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA. 

The PIF has also invested heavily in football, purchasing an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle in 2021 and buying European players for the Saudi pro-league.

Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al Nassr in January, his former Real Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema completed his move to Al Ittihad on Tuesday and Lionel Messi was reportedly in the sights of Al Hilal.

The PIF has an estimated value of over €500 billion.


Mr Martin said the money in sports, such as the investment from Saudi funds, raised questions on sustainability.

“I think more fundamentally into the future in terms of sustainability of sport, it could be premiership soccer in the UK, it’s now golf at a global stage,” he said

Rory McIlroy left feeling ‘like a sacrificial lamb...
Read More

“The sums are enormous, and how sustainable all of that is for sport into the future I would question.

“The same with Russian oligarchs as well, using extraordinary sums of money to purchase football clubs.”


He added: “I have concerns about that generally, as a person who’s very passionate about sport and at the end of the day, the need for sport, to be independent and keep to its values and keep to its principles.”

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by