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Saudi Arabia to host major snooker event for first time

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Golden oldie Mark Williams eyeing up a shot on his way to a third world title in 2018. Paul ELLIS/AFP

Saudi Arabia to host major snooker event for first time

Saudi Arabia has agreed a deal with World Snooker to host a ranking event for the first time after signing a 10-year deal with the sport’s governing body.

The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will be held in Riyadh from October 4-10 with total prize money of £2.5 million ($3.29 million) as part of the 2020-21 World Snooker Tour calendar.

“This is a giant leap forward for our sport. We have enjoyed tremendous global expansion over the past decade, particularly in Asia and Europe and we are thrilled to stage a new and momentous tournament in the Middle East,” World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said on Sunday.

The tournament will include all 128 Tour players and the world’s top 32 will enter at the third-round stage, with four local players competing in the first round.

Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority chairman Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal Al Saud said: “This partnership adds further to our hosting of a diverse range of international sports in Saudi Arabia.

“Having held motorsport and boxing events in recent months, and with tennis and equestrian events to follow, we are thrilled to add the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters, which will see world-class snooker played in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2020.”

Saudi Arabia has been accused of using top-level sport to cover the country’s dubious human rights record.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has highlighted the country’s “abysmal” reputation, due to heavy restrictions on freedom of expression and women’s rights, as well as the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law.

The Kingdom has sought to stage sporting and entertainment events in a bid to attract visitors and move away from its oil-dependent economy.

Britain’s Anthony Joshua won world boxing heavyweight titles against Andy Ruiz in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.

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