IF you're not quite sure about what the objection to Saudi influence in sport is, then you should familiarise yourself with Bryan Fogel's 2020 film The Dissident. The documentary is a shocking portrayal of life inside Saudi Arabia and what it is like for those critics who have no option but to leave the Kingdom. In it, we hear the testimony of dissidents who speak of intimidation to their families, the implicit threat of assassination and, the full gory details as the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi laugh while sawing up the 59-year-old's body inside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul.

It is worth bearing in mind when debate about the LIV Golf series raises its head and you find yourself questioning whether it's really that big a deal.

Certainly, it makes a mockery of golfers’ claims that they should be allowed to just get on with the golf. The inaugural winner of the first LIV Golf event, Charl Schwartzel, noted that at previous tournaments he had never taken the time to find out where the prize money had come from. But it's quite obvious where LIV's money comes from - the Public Investment Fund - a crucial cog in making the Saudi Arabian economy more sustainable as it seeks to move away from a reliance on oil exports and fossil fuels by 2030. That has meant investment in global heavyweight businesses but also in sport as the Saudis – and specifically Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of this Vision 2030 plan – have attempted to add blusher and lipstick to its uglier face. Think Vladimir Putin but with vastly greater wealth.

This has meant quite a few of the world's biggest golf names being forced to hold their nose while they meekly offer platitudinous soundbites about the exciting innovations LIV offers or the work-life balance it gives them, a claim that loses much of its validity given the ongoing disputes – the US Department Of Justice is currently investigating whether the PGA has broken antitrust laws while a trio of DP Tour golfers overturned their ban to play at last week’s Scottish Open – some of the rebels have about wanting the best of both worlds.

Is it possible to feel sorry for them? Not really. Their actions have plunged golf into civil war and their wilful ignorance has merely inflamed tensions, not to mention barely credible claims from multi-millionaires that the decision was about safeguarding their families futures.

This is, of course, part of a choreographed strategy: by sending out golfers to do their bidding, LIV organisers are hoping it will evoke sympathy for the individuals in question and/or help deflect from the real issues that people have about the regime. When golfers say – or are told to say – 'it's just about the golf for me' they're already doing the Saudis' bidding. Already there are signs of fatigue and apathy among the golfing populace. Increasingly, there is a message from some who believe the players should just be allowed to get on with things. But that's just what the Saudis want because the more the talk is about competition, shots, matches and feats, the more quickly it moves away from uncomfortable truths.

And whether those rebel golfers on the tour like it or not this is ideological. When a, and let's be euphemistic here, less-than-palatable country hosts an event it is not the same thing as a state-funded tour: because at the very essence of the LIV Series is an attempt at normalisation by way of saying 'this is just about golf for us'. It's not, this is the sanitisation of a brutal regime in which women's rights are suppressed and those of the LGBT community are non-existent, it's about dropping bombs on Yemen, it's about the role of Saudi Arabia in the September 11 attacks, it's about the targetting of emigre critics of the regime via social media and by way of implicit threats to their family and it's about the murder of Khashoggi – once an eminent member of the regime turned thorn in its side.

Lest we forget that LIV Golf CEO, Greg Norman, attempted to swat this away as “a mistake”.

Was it any wonder that journalists became even more entrenched in their determination to shine a negative light on the tour? In the post-Trump era, the profession has become vilified and yet here was the chief spokesman of the LIV Tour explaining that a murder of one of their own was “a mistake”.

Soon the Saudis were calling in help. Ari Fleischer, a former media consultant and political aide to George W Bush, was brought in to oversee communications strategy.

Fleischer, who has become a crisis PR moderator for the LIV Series, was asked at the press conference previewing the first event on the tour how he squared his current relationship with having once tweeted a claim that the Saudis were spending billions to ensure Mohammed bin Salman wasn’t overthrown and that this was just another example of that. Fleischer answered by saying that the tweet was ‘a long, long time ago'.

His involvement is noteworthy. He is also believed to be advising the Women's Tennis Association, throwing up the possibility that Saudi Arabia might be looking to involve itself in tennis, too. Coupled with PIF’s ownership of Newcastle United there is increasingly the sense that the Saudis are not just positioning themselves for slices of the sporting pie but perhaps the cherry on top as well. Food for thought for those who claim this is 'just about the golf'.