Disrupting golf: the Saudi-backed plan to shake up the sport


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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

ADVERTISEMENT


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

ADVERTISEMENT


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

ADVERTISEMENT


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

ADVERTISEMENT


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

ADVERTISEMENT


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

ADVERTISEMENT


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

Weekly e-newsletter

Scoreboard is the Monetary Occasions’ new must-read weekly briefing on the enterprise of sport, the place you’ll discover the very best evaluation of economic points affecting golf equipment, franchises, house owners, traders and media teams throughout the worldwide trade. Join right here.


In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed monetary alternative. “You take a look at that worth that’s been generated by way of different sports activities, for different gamers and different franchises,” he says. “Golf has by no means recognised that or had the power to seize that market.”

The world’s largest sports activities groups could be valued within the billions of {dollars}. Manchester United, the English Premier League facet, trades on the New York Inventory Change at round $2.5bn. Norman says the Indian Premier League, which was launched in 2008, exhibits how new sports activities franchises can rapidly develop in worth when backed by large broadcast offers and surging audiences. Final month, personal fairness agency CVC Capital Companions and Indian tycoon Sanjiv Goenka spent a mixed $1.7bn to purchase the 2 new groups that can be part of the competitors subsequent yr.

Saudi women spectate at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah
Saudi girls spectate on the Saudi Girls Worldwide golf match on the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, north of Jeddah © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“It could be silly of us to not be looking at that,” says Norman of investing in workforce competitions. “We see what sport as an asset class has finished for franchise values, house owners and followers . . . however to go down that course it’s a must to change gears large time.”

Distinguished gamers reminiscent of Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickleson have reportedly been approached to take part within the new tasks, however few have spoken publicly about whether or not they would be part of.

The dangers are excessive for any participant contemplating becoming a member of a breakaway competitors — they may discover themselves excluded from main occasions within the PGA Tour or European Tour, or the Ryder or Solheim Cups.

“You return to what occurred in Europe with the European Tremendous League in soccer,” mentioned McIlroy earlier this yr, referring to a failed try by elite soccer golf equipment to create their very own competitors and management the revenues.

“Individuals can see it for what it’s — a cash seize — which is okay if what you’re enjoying golf for is to make as a lot cash as doable,” he mentioned. “I’m enjoying this recreation to attempt to cement my place in historical past and my legacy and to win main championships.”

Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Keith Pelley, CEO of the PGA European Tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan on the Saudi Worldwide in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, Saudi Arabia © Andrew Redington/WME IMG by way of Getty Pictures

Executives on rival excursions argue that creating groups goes in opposition to the essence of what it’s to be knowledgeable golfer. The notion that they’d be “beholden to somebody who owns the workforce, an employment assemble fairly than unbiased contractors” is the primary purpose it’s so laborious for leagues to persuade gamers to affix them, mentioned one individual near the PGA Tour.

It’s not the primary time initiatives have been prompt within the sport. The European Tour held talks with the Premier Golf League, a separate group pushing a team-format challenge, till deciding to companion with the PGA Tour. The PGL, which says it doesn’t have Saudi funding, nonetheless hopes to persuade the PGA Tour to work with it.

Regardless of the heated opposition, Norman and his backers consider the windfall of money they will bestow on the world’s finest gamers and the joy of recent codecs will persuade many to interrupt away. That’s what can be required to get hundreds of thousands of devoted golf followers to look at its occasions.

Norman says skilled golfers, notably these not based mostly within the US, have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased.

“We had an enormous quantity of restrictions placed on us,” he says. “Practically 4 many years now we’ve been combating for this proper to have the ability to go be a member of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, and nonetheless have the suitable to go and play wherever else you need to go play.”

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In his enjoying days, Greg Norman at all times stood out on the golf course.

Nicknamed “the Shark”, the Australian spent 331 weeks as the sport’s primary ranked participant within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Together with his signature straw hat and aggressive type of play, Norman was a particular determine in an in any other case stuffy and conservative sport.

Now, with the backing of funding from Saudi Arabia, he intends to shake up the traditional recreation once more. Final month, Norman was named the chief govt of LIV Golf Investments, a brand new firm majority-owned by Public Funding Fund, the $450bn Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The corporate’s self-proclaimed purpose is to revolutionise the game, luring the world’s finest golfers to a string of recent tournaments and difficult its present energy buildings.

Simply because the Indian Premier League and shorter T20 format have energised cricket with the creation of a brand new match that generates billions of {dollars} in media and sponsorship revenues, LIV and its backers consider that golf is ripe for the disruptive forces of recent concepts and cash.

“The business facet of golf is rising, the broadcasting facet of golf is rising, however golf has been caught in the identical field for [more than 50] years,” says Norman. “Competitors is the very best factor on the planet for everyone.”

Norman’s appointment was introduced alongside the LIV’s $200m dedication to spend money on the Asian Tour, the physique that runs golf tournaments in its continent. The sheer dimension of the funding despatched shockwaves all through the sport, on condition that the Asian Tour beforehand felt prefer it was the “youthful brother” to its greater rivals, in keeping with Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief govt of the Asian Tour

It units up a strong new competitor to the game’s present giants, the US’s PGA Tour, the world’s main and richest circuit, and the European Tour.

Greg Norman of Australia drives off at the fourth tee at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Greg Norman says skilled golfers have at all times wished to have the ability to play all all over the world and to be genuinely unbiased © Mark Phillips/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

LIV’s funding comes at an opportune time for golf. After years of declining participation in key markets just like the US, UK and Japan, the pandemic has spurred a newfound curiosity in an outdoor recreation that may be performed whereas socially distanced.

With one eye on the IPL cricket match — which has been constructed round a collection of utterly new workforce franchises — Norman says that LIV is contemplating a plan to introduce extra workforce codecs right into a sport that’s largely based mostly on particular person competitions.

Though some main gamers are believed to be contemplating becoming a member of such a contest, rumours a few potential Saudi Golf League have been met with hostility by some within the sport. Irish star Rory Mcllroy criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a “cash seize”.

LIV represents the newest of a collection of sports activities investments by Saudi Arabia, a part of its efforts to diversify the oil-rich kingdom away from fossil fuels. PIF led the £305m acquisition of Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer membership, whereas the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah this December will assist to find out the winner of this yr’s System One automobile racing world championships. Elite boxers, footballers, and golfers, have all competed within the nation lately.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the crowd at St James’ Park in Newcastle
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle United and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, attends a match at St James’ Park in Newcastle © Jon Tremendous/AP

Critics say Saudi Arabia is following a playbook adopted by its Center Japanese neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, of utilizing the world’s favorite video games to “sportswash” its fame, distracting from the nation’s file on human rights, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018, and its navy operations in Yemen.

Grant Liberty, the human rights organisation, estimates that Saudi has invested $1.5bn on sport lately, all “to scrub away the stench of homicide and brutality that hangs over the MBS regime”.

Norman insists that his involvement with LIV is rooted in a need to develop the game. “No, I’ve not been used for sportswashing as a result of I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the adjustments which have taken place,” he says. “Each nation has finished horrendous issues up to now . . . simply take a look at America with racism, for instance, it’s simply so embedded right here, it’s simply ugly.”

Regardless of the motivations, the Saudi-backed enterprise has launched a battle to form the way forward for the sport that pits a blazer-wearing golf institution in opposition to well-funded rebels. In a single signal of the sharp competitors that’s rising, gamers within the US-based PGA Tour have been warned that they may obtain lifetime bans in the event that they be part of breakaway competitions.

“You’ve bought some very strong-willed people who find themselves very keen on defending what they consider is the place, and the [Saudi-backed] disruptors,” says Chip Brewer, chief govt of Callaway, the golf course and tools firm. “I don’t suppose it’s even chilly, I feel it’s only a sizzling warfare.”

Shifting allegiances

The Outdated Course at St Andrews is the world’s oldest golf course, broadly thought-about to be the “residence of golf”. The primary written file of the sport in Scotland is a doc from 1457 wherein James II, King of Scots, banned the game as a result of it was a distraction from archery.

The Royal and Historic Golf Membership of St Andrews, golf’s governing physique exterior the US and Mexico, nonetheless has a big position within the sport. The R&A writes guidelines and organises the Open Championship, which started in 1860 and is the oldest Main championship within the recreation.

Reporters attend a press conference to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020
Reporters attend a press convention to announce the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a part of the 2021 F1 calendar in Jeddah in 2020 © Amer Hilabi/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Martin Slumbers, chief govt of the R&A, argues that the sport can develop throughout the present construction. “I don’t consider we want a disruptive occasion,” he says.

He distinguishes between LIV proposals for breakaway golf leagues and initiatives reminiscent of oil firm Saudi Aramco’s sponsorship of the Girls European Tour, the ladies’s golf group of which Slumbers is a board member. “I feel there’s a distinction between wanting to take a position and assist throughout the present construction and eager to be a disruptor,” he says.

The opposite energy base inside world golf is within the US, which hosts the Augusta Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship — the opposite three of Golf’s 4 “main” championships. The primary US Open befell in 1895 and the game grew in reputation all through the twentieth century, notably after the second world warfare.

The US PGA Tour was created in 1968 and has grown into the game’s pre-eminent tour. Structured as a tax-exempt charity within the US, its annual revenues grew from $3.9m in 1974 to $229m in 1993, and it’s forecasting revenues of $1.5bn for subsequent yr.

The PGA Tour is competing laborious to protect its standing as the popular vacation spot for gamers, growing prize cash and different monetary incentives, whereas additionally warning gamers concerning the penalties of enjoying for breakaway competitions. In a memo despatched to members on November 22, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned the tour would improve annual prize cash by 16 per cent to $427m in 2022. In complete, the tour expects to direct 55 per cent of its revenues subsequent yr again to gamers.

“The PGA Tour is stronger than at any time in our historical past and the sport of golf has unprecedented momentum,” Monahan mentioned in an emailed assertion. “We’re positioned to develop sooner within the subsequent 10 years than at some other level in our existence.”

Beforehand, the PGA’s solely actual challenger was the European Tour, a rival match circuit. That dynamic essentially modified when the 2 teams introduced a brand new strategic alliance in November 2020, with the PGA Tour agreeing to take a position a 15 per cent stake within the European Tour’s media manufacturing firm for $85m, offering some a lot wanted post-pandemic capital.

Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘money grab’
Irish golfer Rory Mcllroy has criticised the prospect of a breakaway league as a ‘cash seize’ © Yoshi Iwamoto/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

“In a single day, they went from rivals to companions,” says Keith Pelley, chief govt of the European Tour, who described the deal as “opportunistic” fairly than defensive. “It’s only the start.” In a transfer designed to draw and retain prime gamers, Pelley has additionally signed a landmark naming rights cope with DP World, a longtime sponsor, that can permit it to extend its prize fund to $140m.

One casualty of this has been the Asian tour — which for the final 20 years has tapped the game’s rising reputation within the area. The expansion within the Asian tour had been helped by a strategic partnership with the European Tour, which was first signed in 2016 however which is able to lapse on the finish of the yr.

“For the longest time we had been aligned with the European tour,” says Thant. “And it was all about defending the remainder of the world from the PGA Tour. Now it’s been turned on its head, the place the European Tour and the PGA Tour are working collectively.”

The shifting alliances inside world golf have given the Saudi-backed efforts a gap. “We felt like standing on our personal two ft, working with an investor within the Asian area,” says Thant.

A workforce sport?

Norman first proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in 1994, however the challenge obtained little backing on the time. “Nothing has actually occurred” in the best way the sport has been structured in additional than half a century, he says.

That might change with LIV’s funding, which is backing a collection of 10 profitable occasions to be held on the Asian Tour over the approaching decade and says it’s “making strategic investments” throughout the game.

Larger plans might quickly comply with. One concept that LIV is exploring is team-based codecs. Golf already operates a small variety of profitable team-based occasions, together with the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’s equal, is organised by the Girls European Tour and the US Girls Skilled Golf Affiliation. In each tournaments, groups representing Europe and the US compete in opposition to one another.

However the construction of golf means groups can’t be purchased and bought. Not like in soccer and basketball, golfers are particular person contractors. They work for themselves, whereas the excursions run competitions, combination media rights and monetise the protection. Regardless of the obvious independence of gamers, they usually require permission from their member tour if they’re to play on rival circuits.

Norman argues that this mannequin is a missed m