2023年8月17日 星期四

After LIV Golf, What Will Be the Next Saudi Sports Bet? LIV併PGA後 沙烏地銀彈攻勢的下個目標是誰?

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2023/08/18 第446期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份
紐時周報精選 After LIV Golf, What Will Be the Next Saudi Sports Bet? LIV併PGA後 沙烏地銀彈攻勢的下個目標是誰?
The Taliban Government Runs on WhatsApp. There's Just One Problem. 美國制裁打亂神學士政權WhatsApp溝通網
After LIV Golf, What Will Be the Next Saudi Sports Bet? LIV併PGA後 沙烏地銀彈攻勢的下個目標是誰?
文/Lauren Hirsch, Michael J. de

LIV併PGA後 沙烏地銀彈攻勢的下個目標是誰?

When the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf series announced an agreement to join with the PGA Tour, it shocked deal makers across the sports world.


"It's been a mix of stunned and in disbelief," Alex Michael, a managing director at the investment bank LionTree, talked about the general reaction.


Industry insiders quickly moved on to wondering which sport could be next.


Saudi Arabia's enormous sovereign wealth fund, which is known as the Public Investment Fund, or PIF, has an appetite for sports. It has made investments in WWE, Formula 1 and a national soccer league.


But the kingdom's history of human rights violations has been an obstacle to some deals in the United States. In 2019, the entertainment giant Endeavor returned the fund's $400 million investment after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And until recently, the PGA Tour was eager to use Saudi Arabia's record against it.


That moral concern seems to have been overridden by the PGA Tour's business concerns. The deal with LIV Golf came together after the rival circuit picked up traction and lured players away with lofty purses, ultimately making it infeasible for the PGA to compete.


"The Saudis didn't change history or change who they were," said Lyle Ayes, CEO of Verance Capital, which invests in sports. "The deal just made sense."


Effectively a commercial partnership, the deal may open the door for more sports businesses to accept PIF funds, Ayes said.


It would be difficult to pull off the LIV Golf playbook in another sport. Baseball faces challenges that would make an investment in a rival league risky: Its fan base is aging, the regional sports model is collapsing, and there aren't a lot of spare baseball stadiums big enough for a major-league team. A rival to the National Football League would require a large number of players, and past efforts to create competitor leagues have flopped.


The National Basketball Association might be the easiest team league to challenge. Basketball requires fewer players than baseball or football, and courts are fairly easy to find or build. But given how much U.S. players are already paid, it's unclear what a rival league could offer.


Tennis is probably the best candidate for a rival tour. Like golf, it's an individual sport, which makes it easier for PIF to lure athletes with big checks.


The Taliban Government Runs on WhatsApp. There's Just One Problem. 美國制裁打亂神學士政權WhatsApp溝通網
文/Christina Goldbaum, Safiulla


The team of Taliban security officers assembled on the outskirts of Afghanistan's capital to prepare for a raid on an Islamic State group hideout.


The leader, Habib Rahman Inqayad, scrambled to get the exact location of their target. He grabbed his colleagues' phones and called their superiors, who insisted they had sent him the location pin of the target to his WhatsApp.


But WhatsApp had blocked his account to comply with U.S. sanctions.


"The only way we communicate is WhatsApp — and I didn't have access," said Inqayad, 25, whom The New York Times has followed since the Taliban seized power in August 2021.


In recent months, complaints from Taliban officials, police and soldiers of their WhatsApp accounts being banned or temporarily deactivated have become widespread, disruptions that have illuminated how the messaging platform has become a backbone of the Taliban's nascent government. Those interruptions also underscore the far-reaching consequences of international sanctions on a government that has become among the most isolated in the world.


The United States has long criminalized any form of support for the Taliban. Consequently, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, scans group names, descriptions and group profile photos on the messaging app to identify users among the Taliban and block their accounts, according to a spokesperson for the company.


The policy has been in place since U.S. sanctions were enacted more than two decades ago.


But over the past two years, the Taliban's reliance on WhatsApp has become even more far-reaching as smartphone use has proliferated and 4G networks have improved across Afghanistan with the end of the U.S.-led war. As the Taliban have consolidated control and settled into governance, the inner bureaucratic workings of their administration have also become more organized — with WhatsApp central to their official communications.


The cat-and-mouse game of shutting down accounts has become a headache for officials in the Taliban administration — an almost daily reminder that the government they lead is all but shunned on the world stage.


Many who have had their accounts shut down have found workarounds, buying new SIM cards and opening new accounts, and turned the ban more into a game of Whac-A-Mole.


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