Women's Sport: Barry Hearn confirms the inclusion of female referees at the Saudia Arabia Snooker Masters tournament

2017 William Hill PDC World Darts Championships - Day Five

In an effort to stage more major sporting events in Saudia Arabia, World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn announced the inclusion of female referees at the new Snooker tournament in Saudia Arabia.

The 71-year-old rejected criticism on the decision to host the tournament in Saudia Arabia, highlighting the drive for change and progress within the sport by including female officials. 

"The fact that we are using women referees is a major step forward.

"We are all aware of the situation, but sport knows no boundaries in our view and we are there to spread the gospel of sport, and in this case the gospel of snooker," he said.

Considering women were not allowed to drive in Saudia Arabia until last year, the move to allow women to referee has been accused of 'sports washing' as part of an attempt to cleanse Saudia Arabia's image.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International called attention to the country's "abysmal" human rights record by highlighting the heavy restrictions on freedom of expression and women's rights.

In line with this, Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK's head of campaigns, likened the event to a "public relations tool to distract from the darker realities" of life in Saudia Arabia.

Jakens added: "We're not telling snooker players whether they should or shouldn't go to Riyadh.

"But they certainly need to be aware of how this tournament fits with Saudi Arabia's recent drive to 'sports wash' their abysmal human rights record," he said.

However, in backing the new lucrative 10-year deal, Hearn emphasized that snooker's elite players are under no pressure to play in the tournament.

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