England's Meghan MacLaren withdraws from Saudi golf tournament due to concern over 'sportswashing'

England's MacLaren has withdrawn from the Saudi event (PA Images)
England's MacLaren has withdrawn from the Saudi event (PA Images)
10:24am, Thu 30 Jan 2020
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English golfer Meghan Maclaren has withdrawn from the inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship due to fears the country is sportswashing its human rights record.

MacLaren, who initially did not want to comment as she didn't want to be seen as 'lecturing other players', eventually released a statement about her withdrawal.

“I’ve decided not to play based on what I think sport is being used to do in Saudi Arabia," she said. "It’s far more complicated than any one individual, so it’s a personal decision and not something I would push onto anyone else. But based on the research of organisations like Amnesty International, I couldn’t be comfortable being part of that process.

“We take for granted a lot of the choices and freedom we have available to us, but I try to make my decisions based on who I am as a person, not just a golfer. It’s obviously a huge tournament for us, but this to me is about more than golf. I wish sport as a whole looked through a lens deeper than what benefits itself.”

Amnesty has recently told The Telegraph: “Given the way the Saudi authorities are ramping up their involvement in major events to try to ‘sportswash’ their abysmal human rights record, top-tier sportspeople may want to push back against efforts to use them in this kind of PR.

“We’re not saying golfers should necessarily boycott the European Tour in Saudi Arabia - that has to be a personal decision. If golfers or other sportspeople do go to Saudi Arabia, they should inform themselves of its atrocious human rights record and be ready to speak out.

“When high-profile sporting figures speak out on human rights - whether at home or during an overseas tournament itself - it can have real impact, helping to demonstrate to the Saudi authorities that the world isn’t prepared to look the other way.”

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