AUGUSTA, Georgia — Golf’s European Tour could punish players who defected to rival Saudi Arabia-funded LIV golf series, a London arbitration panel announced on Thursday, the opening day of the Masters tournament. I have ruled in a decision.
The panel’s decision on the European series DP World Tour has been the subject of great anticipation and anxiety among players and executives, as US lawsuits are likely years away from conclusion. As a key test of whether the long-established tour can easily chastise the players who participated in his LIV, a league that raises billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, all the other side was watching it.
The European ruling does not affect the Masters, which has 18 LIV players on the field. But it was a blow to the Rebellion League, which wanted its days of tournament play to be a springboard to greater confidence, rather than a renewed debate about its appeal and risk to big-name pros.
The decision could also shape the European roster for the Ryder Cup, a wildly popular U.S.-European competition to be held in Italy this fall. Must be a member.
The lawsuit to the arbitrator in London involved a narrow issue: the conflicting event policies of the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, barred players from participating in certain tournaments without approval. In a ruling released after five days of hearings in February, arbitrators concluded that Rebel players had committed a “serious breach” of the Tour’s rules.
The arbitrator found that the breach “enhanced the likelihood that commercial partners would be tempted to terminate or limit their relationship with Tour.” “Importance,” he said, adding that Tour CEO Keith Perry “acted perfectly rationally” when he turned down the player’s request to appear at the LIV event.
In a statement hours before the Masters started, Perry accepted the ruling.
Perry said, “I am pleased that the committee has recognized its responsibility to full members to do this and that the process we have followed has been fair and balanced. .
LIV’s attorney, Matthew Schwartz, issued a statement that the arbitrator’s opinion “does not reasonably state why it must remain competitive.”
“The DPWT tries to unfairly control players by punishing them for playing golf, and it is the sport and the fans who suffer,” he added, referring to the European Tour.
Although the lawsuit dealt only with specific tour policies, many sports lawyers predicted that the outcome could form an ambition to create alternatives to marquee leagues, tours, and federations. bottom. A Tour victory would give new support to the kinds of rules that major sports organizers have created to protect television rights contracts and market power. It might have prompted us to more seriously consider startup leagues and overtures from competitions that offer richer rewards.
The issue has surfaced repeatedly in recent years in serious cases involving football, speed skating and swimming, as athletes claim greater autonomy and wealthy Persian Gulf states invest more in their sport. For example, speculation is rife in the world of women’s golf that Saudi Arabia might eventually take on a women’s league similar to the LIV.
That split was evident last June at a course near London. That’s when longtime touring his players like Ian Poulter, Charles Schwartzel, and Lee Westwood appeared at his LIV’s first event. The tournament provided an early glimpse of just how much money golfers could make if they eschewed the traditional tour in favor of the Saudi-backed circuit. Schwartzel earned $4.75 million in the three-day event thanks to his individual and team performances, nearly €17.7 million, or his was earning over $19 million.
Tour officials wary of allowing individual golfers to devalue multi-million dollar television and sponsorship deals, and have responded with suspensions and fines. Until then, he was one of the players who won a reprieve. This week’s decision ultimately covered 12 players (the other four had given up on appeal) who would have played at the LIV event held in the UK or later in the US, That group included Poulter, Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Graham McDowell and Patrick Reed. Schwartzel and Sergio García were two of his players who dropped the lawsuit.
Garcia, Reed, and Schwartzel are all past Masters winners and among the LIV players in Augusta this week.
LIV skeptics see the circuit, which hosts a 54-hole, uncut tournament, as a way to promote diluted golf and a way for Saudi Arabia to distance itself from its own human rights record. LIV executives insisted they were just trying to electrify and repopularize a sport they deemed stagnant, with many of the league’s players having contracts guaranteeing tens of millions of dollars, We believe in being independent contractors who are free to compete anytime and anywhere. they chose.
“It makes no difference if I’m on the PGA Tour or LIV. I’ve always played two tours,” Reid said at the DP World Tour event in Dubai. in a January interview with LIV wearing a LIV hat. driving range. “All these people who basically say they can’t, can’t double-dip — what’s their favorite cake phrase? Make your own cake and eat it or something? — Well, Rory, I, all of these guys, have played on multiple tours (PGA Tour and DP World Tour star Rory McIlroy is one of LIV’s most outspoken opponents.)
In their decision, the arbitrators sharply stated that the independent contractor’s claims were “exaggerated.”
“Individual players must accept the restrictions on freedom inherent in tour membership,” the panel said. suggested that he had given up his independence,” said the player.
The arbitrator ruled that the tour did not violate any laws governing restrictions on competition or trade.
“It is not part of competition law to require incumbents not to offer resistance. They are entitled to react and retaliate, even if they are dominant,” the panel added.
An arbitrator’s award is unlikely to have a direct impact on a legal battle in the United States. In the United States, the LIV and PGA Tour are embroiled in a bitterly escalating lawsuit. The American controversy won’t go to trial until next year.
Britain’s Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that an arbitrator had ruled in favor of the DP World Tour, causing an uproar around the Augusta National grounds. McIlroy held back commenting significantly because the verdict at the time had not yet been made public, but said, “If that’s the outcome, it certainly changes the whole dynamic.”
Should LIV players withdraw from the Tour, their chances of making a Ryder Cup team will cease under the eligibility rules. Sticking around doesn’t guarantee a place on the roster.
“You can only do what you can do, which is to play in the tournaments you can play in and play in the best possible way. Then everything else is out of your hands,” Garcia said on Tuesday. Told. “So the decision of whether or not we will be elected or not, or anything like that, is not made by me.”
Instead, his Ryder Cup fate will depend on whether or not European captain Luke Donald said, “I think I’m good enough.