'It's a difficult decision' – Padraig Harrington reacts as European Tour confirm Saudi Arabia will host 2019 event

Padraig Harrington hopes staging a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia can be a “positive force” after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi focused attention on the country’s regime.

The European Tour announced in March that it will stage an event in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2019, a decision confirmed when the full schedule was released on Monday.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are also due to play a lucrative exhibition in Jeddah in December and Harrington believes the Tour’s decision to go ahead with the tournament is not a “black or white” issue.

“It’s a difficult decision, I’m sure it was not taken lightly,” Harrington said. “The European Tour, like a lot of people, are trying to build relationships around the world and looking to move forward.

“Then of course the question comes when you go to something like this – are you helping by going or by not going are you pushing them away and making society poorer and weaker and less open by shutting them out?

“It’s an age-old question and probably for a lot more qualified people than me to know if it’s a good or a bad thing.

“There is no doubt by us being there it opens up society all the more, obviously that’s what the Saudis would like. They are trying to open up tourism, their society and the European Tour and other sporting occasions are part of bringing the world to them.

“If we went back 50 years in any of our societies we needed to open up so it’s not 100 per cent clear, it’s not a black or white question or answer to say are we helping or not. Let’s hope we are.

“I’ve played a lot of golf in different countries and if you started to get down to the nitty gritty at times you’d go ‘Well there have been questionable places we’ve gone to’. But on the other side you are opening up society in those countries and helping.

“This is a situation that obviously has to be monitored and looked at and is certainly not something that is taken lightly. Let’s hope it’s a step forward rather than backwards.

“I think the European Tour have taken the attitude at this stage they can be more of a positive force than a negative one.”

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