The New South Wales Government is “ready and willing” to engage with Greg Norman in a bid to bring the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour to Sydney, the state’s sports minister has said.
Amid growing speculation Norman is looking to move the controversial secession tournament to Australia, minister Alister Henskens has confirmed he is open to hosting the multi-million dollar rebel series.
“With some of the best courses in Australia, NSW is an ideal place to host major golf tournaments,” he told the Guardian.
“We are ready and willing to discuss bringing a more professional tour to NSW.”
On Wednesday, Norman was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying the governments of unnamed states were “putting taxpayers’ money on the table” to attract the tour to Australia.
Norman told the Telegraph that he was “already in talks with Ministers of State” in a bid to secure a course to host the event as early as next April.
He said “conversations have taken place” and negotiations will “probably start here next week”.
The Guardian understands Norman is shopping the prospect of hosting the LIV golf tournament at a number of Sydney clubs but has yet to hold formal talks with Henskens, who has only been in the role since last month.
The Rebel Series has been highly controversial due to its financial links to the repressive Saudi regime, but Henskens said in a statement that NSW wanted to “attract the biggest and best events to our state”.
“NSW has over 166,000 registered golfers, over 370 courses and the game has an economic impact of about $1.3 billion annually on the NSW economy.”
Both the Queensland and Victorian governments told the Guardian on Wednesday they had not been approached by Norman or held any talks with the breakaway league.
“My office has not been contacted by representatives of the LIV Golf Series, nor have any offers been made to host the LIV Golf tournament in Queensland,” Queensland Sports Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.
Hinchliff’s office did not rule out the prospect of the state hosting the LIV Tour, but his spokesman said Tourism and Events Queensland “has a very good relationship with PGA Australia”.
A spokesman for Victorian Sports Minister Steve Dimopoulos said his state had not spoken to the rebel tour, no proposals had been made and the government “continues to host major international events that support local jobs and businesses”.
Norman has come under considerable criticism in the golf world – as well as from human rights groups – for his involvement as a puppet for LIV Golf.
The tournament has managed to attract some of the sport’s biggest stars – including winning Australian Cameron Smith – to lucrative deals.
But human rights groups, including Amnesty International, accused Norman and the golfers who signed up for a series of “sporting fads” – the use of sport by repressive governments to legitimize their regimes and divert attention from human rights abuses.
Norman was heavily criticized after he described the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as a “mistake”, adding that the Saudi government “wants to move forward”.
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