Aramco Team Series — New York launches Driving Force to support equality within golf

Aramco Team Series — New York launches Driving Force to support equality within golf
The Driving Force initiative is aiming to promote diversity in golf. (Golf Saudi)
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Updated 12 October 2021

Aramco Team Series — New York launches Driving Force to support equality within golf

Aramco Team Series — New York launches Driving Force to support equality within golf
  • Three-day team and individual tournament takes place at Glen Oaks Club, Long Island, from Oct. 14-16

NEW YORK: The Aramco Team Series — New York has launched the Driving Force presented by Aramco, an initiative aimed at helping further open golf to people of all backgrounds and make the sport more inclusive.

Backed by some of the biggest names in modern golf, the initiative seeks to create a culture within global golf that promotes involvement from people of all backgrounds.

The Aramco Team Series — New York will take place at Glen Oaks Club, Long Island, from Oct. 14-16.

Organizers will pair up NYC street golf icon Tiger Hood with big-hitting long drive competitor Troy Mullins and the Girls on the Green Tee charity, which aims to introduce young women to the game, and provide leadership and character development.

Aramco Team Series director Tom Hogg said that it is hoped the initiative will help to develop golf around the world “in a way that makes it more accessible and open to all.”

He added: “That is something that can only be of major benefit to the sport.”

“All four Aramco Team Series events are designed to inspire and attract more women, girls, men and boys into the sport we all love,” he said.

“That invite is open to all, and if there are any obstacles that stand in the way, we as a tournament, and Aramco and Golf Saudi as our backers, will look to take the steps available to help overcome them for the greater good of golf and all those excited by the sport.

“We’ll do this in New York by throwing our weight behind the Girls on the Green Tee charity with the support of Tiger Hood, who has created a form of street golf never seen anywhere before, and Troy Mullins, who through her long-driving alone has become a modern golf icon,” Hogg said.

The Aramco Team Series is a new concept and the first team event series on any professional tour, where the world’s best compete in concurrent team and individual contests.

The New York event is the third leg of the four-tournament Series and heads to the US following successful events in London and Sotogrande in Spain, where American Alison Lee secured her maiden professional victory with a win in the individual format.

The $1 million Aramco-backed event sees teams of four battle it out for a share of an $800,000 prize fund, with a $200,000 purse for the leading individual scores over the weekend. As a full LET event, each tournament also carries points toward the world ranking and the Race to Costa del Sol, LET’s season-long competition to crown Europe’s leading female golfer.

Ahmed Al-Subaey, vice president of marketing, sales and supply planning at Aramco, said: “The Aramco Team Series is all about doing things differently, taking a fresh approach to golf, how it’s played and enjoyed from the top level down. The Driving Force presented by Aramco initiative is a product of that philosophy, which aims to make golf more accessible for everyone. We hope to introduce more young people to the game and make it easier than ever to get a club in your hand, no matter your background or where you’re from.”


Under-fire Bruce vows to fight for Newcastle job

Under-fire Bruce vows to fight for Newcastle job
Updated 41 sec ago

Under-fire Bruce vows to fight for Newcastle job

Under-fire Bruce vows to fight for Newcastle job
LONDON: Newcastle manager Steve Bruce says he will fight to keep his job as speculation swirls that he faces the sack despite being allowed to take charge of Sunday’s game against Tottenham.
Bruce will reach 1,000 matches as a manager this weekend, but that landmark could be a bittersweet moment if it proves to be his last game as boss at St. James’ Park.
The 60-year-old was reportedly set for the sack following last week’s £305 million ($419 million) takeover of the Premier League strugglers by a Saudi-led consortium.
Bruce has been granted a stay of execution after new Newcastle director Amanda Staveley announced on Friday there would be no immediate decision on his future.
“We have had an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people and it is imperative that we continue to be patient and considered in our approach,” Staveley said in a statement.
“We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday.”
It remains unlikely former Manchester United defender Bruce will be in charge for much longer.
The Magpies have been linked with former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, ex-Borussia Dortmund manager Lucien Favre and Villarreal chief Unai Emery among many others.
However, Bruce made it clear he would love the opportunity to turn underperforming Newcastle around.
“Who wouldn’t want to try? I’m not going to give up the hope of it,” Bruce said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“Who wouldn’t want this job now going forward, the way it is, the way it looks in the future?
“Certainly I would and I’m sure there’s hundreds who’d want to do the same thing. There are exciting times ahead for the club, that’s for sure.”
Bruce said his job status had not been on the agenda during a brief meeting with his new employers.
“There were no discussions on my future, it was all about the team, injuries and how we are looking for the weekend. It was very informal and I have to say they were very good people,” he said.
Bruce said he did not care about the uncertainty over his own position after the takeover.
“It’s not about me personally,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep my respect and dignity, which has probably served me well over the last 20-odd years, and that will remain.
“I played 950 times, won everything there is to win domestically. It is about the club going forward and more importantly getting a result on Sunday.”
Newcastle are just one place off the bottom of the table and without a win in their seven league games this season, a dismal record that has prompted many fans to jeer Bruce during matches.
In asking Newcastle supporters to back Bruce and his team this weekend, Staveley hinted a managerial move was still on the agenda.
“If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team,” she said.
“Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy.”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, one of the first to be linked with Bruce’s job, appeared to rule himself out on Friday when he said: “I have got a contract until 2025. I absolutely love being here.”

Guardiola unable to give Sterling assurances about game time

Guardiola unable to give Sterling assurances about game time
Updated 5 min 43 sec ago

Guardiola unable to give Sterling assurances about game time

Guardiola unable to give Sterling assurances about game time
  • Sterling said he would assess opportunities “to go somewhere else” after falling down the pecking order at City
  • The England winger made the comments at the FT Business of Sport US Summit on Thursday and that came as a surprise to Guardiola and City

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Friday he cannot give assurances to Raheem Sterling about more regular playing time after the winger said he was open to leaving the Premier League champion.
Sterling said he would assess opportunities “to go somewhere else” after falling down the pecking order at City and only starting two of the team’s seven games of its title defense this season.
The England winger made the comments at the FT Business of Sport US Summit on Thursday and that came as a surprise to Guardiola and City.
Asked for his reaction, the City manager said: “I cannot assure (players) and they know it. I spoke many times about this. I cannot assure how many minutes every player is going to play. Always they have to speak on the grass, on the pitch. That is the best moment.”
“What I want,” Guardiola said, “for Raheem and everybody is to be happy. They have to be satisfied to be here, they have to be delighted to be at this club. If that is not the case, they are free to take a decision that is best for them, for the family, for all the people who love them.”
Sterling is in competition for a spot in City’s front three with five players: Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres and Jack Grealish.
Sterling’s chances of seeing more minutes in the short term have improved after Torres returned from international duty with Spain with a right foot injury.
Guardiola said that would keep the forward out for up to three months.
It rules Torres out of Spain’s crucial World Cup qualifiers next month against Greece and Sweden.


Tunisia’s Jabeur to become first Arab player to crack top 10

Tunisia’s Jabeur to become first Arab player to crack top 10
Updated 20 min 31 sec ago

Tunisia’s Jabeur to become first Arab player to crack top 10

Tunisia’s Jabeur to become first Arab player to crack top 10
  • Jabeur, currently ranked 14th, reached the final of the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic earlier this month
  • She became the first Arab player to win a WTA title at the Birmingham Classic in June

LONDON: Ons Jabeur will become the first Arab player to crack the top 10 of the world rankings after reaching the Indian Wells semi-finals on Thursday and the Tunisian said she is just getting started.

Jabeur, currently ranked 14th, reached the final of the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic earlier this month and became the first Arab player to win a WTA title at the Birmingham Classic in June.

The 27-year-old defeated Estonia's Anett Kontaveit 7-5 6-3 in Thursday's quarter-final in the California desert, converting five of her 12 break-point chances on the way to her 48th match win of the season, the most of any player on the Tour this season.

"Like this is a dream coming true. This is something that I've been wanting... when I was 16," Jabeur said.

"Top 10 is the beginning. I know I deserve this place for a long time since I was playing well. But I want to prove that I deserve to be here."

Jabeur, who will face Spain's Paula Badosa in her first WTA 1000 semi-final on Friday, said she faced many obstacles in her career because of her background.

"I've been rejected by sponsors because of where I come from, which is so not fair," she said. "I didn't understand why before, I accepted it. I am really proud of the person I became today, just not relying on others.

"Everybody probably had a difficult career. I'm not saying I have the most difficult one.

"I didn't want to depend on a sponsor or someone who doesn't even care about tennis or sport in general. It gave me the courage to continue and achieve my goals, and I'm in top 10 today."


All eyes on Newcastle’s match against Tottenham as new power prepares to challenge EPL’s Big Six

The Newcastle v. Tottenham match will also be intensely scrutinized by the rest of the English Premier League clubs to assess the initial effects of the takeover. (AFP/File Photos)
The Newcastle v. Tottenham match will also be intensely scrutinized by the rest of the English Premier League clubs to assess the initial effects of the takeover. (AFP/File Photos)
Updated 14 October 2021

All eyes on Newcastle’s match against Tottenham as new power prepares to challenge EPL’s Big Six

The Newcastle v. Tottenham match will also be intensely scrutinized by the rest of the English Premier League clubs to assess the initial effects of the takeover. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Sunday’s clash will be scrutinized by the rest of the Premier League to see initial effects of Saudi-led takeover

DUBAI: Anticipation is building ahead of Newcastle United’s first game under the ownership of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund this weekend, and not just among fans of the club and of their opponents, Tottenham Hotspur.

The match will also be intensely scrutinized by the rest of the English Premier League clubs to assess the initial effects on the famous old club of its takeover by the Saudi-led consortium last week, and for any signs of a new approach.

Interest will be keenest among the Premier League’s so-called Big Six clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham (in alphabetical order). They are the ones with most at stake in maintaining the status quo that the new-look Newcastle is determined to challenge.

The protracted nature of the negotiations that led to the club’s eventual sale by former owner Michael Ashley to the PIF-led consortium — which also includes financial entrepreneur Amanda Staveley and the billionaire Reubens Brothers — has already demonstrated the anxiety the Big Six feel at the prospect of their informal control of the EPL being diluted.

They made their opposition to the Saudi-led takeover obvious in a series of behind-the-scenes briefings and lobbying of the football authorities, which was one of the reasons the EPL was able to stall for so long on final approval for the deal.

Even since the deal finally went through, there have been rumblings in the English media that the rest of the league — led by the Big Six — are still unhappy about it and are looking for ways to obstruct the benefits that will inevitably flow to Newcastle and their long-suffering fans.

Tottenham — Newcastle’s opponents on Sunday — are reported to be the most aggrieved at the idea that Newcastle will have the resources to be able to compete with them and the rest of the Big Six. (Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Tottenham fan.)

A look at the ownership structure of the Big Six tells us a lot about their reasons for apprehension at the Newcastle deal.

Two of them — Chelsea and Manchester City — are owned by wealthy foreign entities in the shape of Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and the government of the UAE respectively. For them, money would appear to be no object, and both have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve the success they have enjoyed in domestic and European football in recent years.

The next grouping — Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United — are owned or controlled by American businessmen with one eye firmly on the bottom line. You get the feeling that the Kronke organisation, the Fenway Sports Group and the Glazier family (respective owners of the three) are as happy with big profits and dividends as they are with trophies.

Tottenham’s ownership falls between the two models. Multi-billionaire Joe Lewis (estimated net worth around $6 billion) is the ultimate owner, which would appear to give Tottenham plenty of resources to challenge the others.

But because of the profit-oriented philosophy of both Lewis and his protege Daniel Levy, the club chairman, Tottenham’s only major trophy this millennium remains the relatively insignificant League Cup.

Of the Big Six, Tottenham and Arsenal have most reason to fear the entry of a super-charged Newcastle into the pack, adding to the rivalry in the EPL and for the limited places in lucrative European competition. Both have struggled to get into the money-spinning continental cups in recent years.

So while the game at St James’ Park on Sunday will be a simple football match involving 22 players on the pitch, it will also be a test of rival financial structures in the football world.

It is probably too early to judge what effect the Saudi injection will have on Newcastle’s business model. The new owners have a lot of work to do to identify specific investment requirements.

On the other hand, a new owner is likely to electrify the Newcastle crowd and incentivize the players to go all out, something they have been accused of not doing during the Ashley years.

Whatever the result, may the best business model win.


Concerns rising over the upholding of cricket standards in the age of short format competitions

Michael Holding’s ability to surprise with a cricket ball has been matched by the piquancy of his comments and views from the commentary box. (Reuters/File Photo)
Michael Holding’s ability to surprise with a cricket ball has been matched by the piquancy of his comments and views from the commentary box. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 14 October 2021

Concerns rising over the upholding of cricket standards in the age of short format competitions

Michael Holding’s ability to surprise with a cricket ball has been matched by the piquancy of his comments and views from the commentary box. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Michael Holding’s questioning of the ability of the game’s off-field custodians to preserve the integrity of the game requires careful monitoring

LONDON: If, following his retirement from the commentary box, someone as respected as Michael Holding was moved to say that he will not miss cricket, then the reasons demand scrutiny. After a stellar career as a fearsome fast bowler for the West Indies between 1975-1987, he began television commentary in 1990 and latterly spent some 20 years with Sky.

During his playing days he was known as “whispering death,” so named because the umpires could not hear him running into bowl, so light were his steps and smooth his action. I remember well taking a group of cricketing colleagues from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to a Test match at Nottingham between England and the West Indies in 1980. We sat on the top tier of a stand opposite the pavilion, the end from which Holding was bowling. It was the first time that most of them had attended a Test match. They watched in awe as Holding loped in toward us, gathering momentum as he approached his point of delivery. The ball pitched and bounced and seemed to keep on climbing, giving the impression that its resting place would be one of our heads. A collective “Oooooh!” was let out by those around us at this prospect.     

Holding’s ability to surprise with a cricket ball has been matched by the piquancy of his comments and views from the commentary box. He has criticized T20 as not being good for the game arguing that “it will be bad unless those in charge manage it properly and I do not think they can because they are blinded by money.” 

During the 2019 World Cup, he openly criticized the decisions of several umpires, only to be informed that he should not cast “negative judgment.”

Holding’s riposte was to say that, as a former cricketer, he was of the view that “cricket should be held to a higher standard.” He questioned if it was an objective to “protect the umpires even when they do a bad job,” adding that “commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organizations to the point of censorship.”   

Most recently, he was highly critical of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s cancellation of short tours for both men’s and women’s teams to Pakistan because of concerns about the players’ “mental and physical well-being,” terming the decision as “Western arrogance.” In June 2021, his book “Why We Kneel, How We Rise” was published, in which his own testimony of racial abuse, along with those of other famous athletes, are dissected. 

Apart from these concerns, Holding is of the opinion that the game is a very much changed one from that which existed when he started out on his journey. In particular, he judges that those responsible for managing the game are not doing it properly, choosing instead to manage the money that the game can bring in.

His views have received some pushback. There are those who feel that the way the game has moved on must be welcomed. Others have been quick to point out that, in 1977, Holding joined the breakaway World Series Cricket organized by the Australian broadcaster Kerry Packer. This ran in commercial competition to established international cricket, implying that Holding was not shy to move against the status quo for financial betterment. In 1979-80, during an ill-tempered New Zealand-West Indies series, he kicked the stumps over after having an appeal rejected, causing some to identify an anti-authoritarian streak in him. 

There is also a sense that his views about T20 cricket do not recognize the possibilities that the Indian Premier League has opened up for young people to choose cricket as a career or that T20 cricket has provided the opportunities for the game to develop in countries where it previously had no foothold. Whether he or others of his generation like it or not, the shorter game in the form of T20 and its variants is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

It is Holding’s rally cry concerning the governance of the game that deserves the most attention. No one can doubt that money has taken hold of the game and seems to be influencing those who make decisions about its future. In Pakistan, still smarting from the cancellation of visits by New Zealand and England, Ramiz Raja, chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board, has expressed deep concerns. Since the PCB is 50 percent funded by the International Cricket Council, which in turn is heavily funded by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, he feels it is at the mercy of India for its survival. Remarkably, Raja has revealed that an investor is ready to give him a blank check if Pakistan beats India in a World Cup group match on Oct. 24.   

Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s governance actions have left it open to criticism. Hard on the heels of the decision to cancel the tours to Pakistan, for which only a press release was provided by way of explanation, its chairman stepped down on Oct. 7 after serving only 13 months of a five-year contract, citing pandemic-induced pressures. After prevarication over the decision to give the green light to the Ashes tour, an announcement was made on Oct. 9 that it would go ahead “subject to several critical conditions.” These are thought to relate to further negotiations taking place with Cricket Australia. Surprisingly, there has been no public word of or from the CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board since his involvement with the cancellation of the England-India Test match at Manchester on Sept. 10.   

Holding’s questioning of the ability or preparedness of the game’s off-field custodians to preserve the soul, standards and integrity of the game requires careful monitoring. The current emphasis on bolstering profit/loss accounts in India, Australia and England, partly induced by the pandemic, does not augur well for the game unless the benefits are spread more widely. Only when the pandemic’s impacts fade away will the appetite for this become apparent.