LIV Series, the new Saudi-funded tour destabilizing the track

Every sport has its own burden. Football has (and might one day) the Premier League, tennis is battling against the new Davis Cup version, Gerard Pique’s version, rugby has the absurd idea of ​​incorporating South Africa’s provinces into the European Cup, and golf has the LIV Tour. live what? A gigantic project established in 2021 and launched in early June. It aims to compete with other existing circuits, in particular the PGA, on the basis of millions (billions) of dollars. At the helm is Saudi Arabia, via its sovereign fund, the Public Investment Fund.

Lagging behind other Gulf oil kingdoms, such as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, which have long invested in sports in order to diversify their sources of income and no longer depend on oil, Saudi Arabia has almost certainly launched into the fray. The results in recent months: the organization of the Formula 1 and Dakar races, the takeover of Newcastle Football Club and the creation of the LIV series of golf.

“There is a very aggressive strategy on the part of the kingdom that is not consensual: creating a competition from scratch that did not exist thanks to the power of the petrodollar financial strike,” notes David Rigolet-Rose, associate researcher at ‘Iris, specializing in the Middle East. It’s like taking over the golf world. Quiet by changing icons. »

Above ground rewards

And what’s better than arranging tickets for it. American Bryson DeChambeau revealed that he accepted $100 million to participate in the second stage of the LIV, which begins Thursday in Portland (United States). We’re talking about $150 million for Dustin Johnson and $200 million for Phil Mickelson. And that’s not counting the prize money: $4 million for the winner in one of the nine stages. In contrast, American Xander Schauffele, winner of the Sunday Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, received a modest $1.5 million. Times are tough.

Legend Phil Mickelson during the first leg of LIV Golf. – J. Marsh/Shutter/Siba

“I understand the players and do not criticize them, especially those who are at the end of their careers and for whom we offer golden bridges, assures Pascal Grizot, president of the French Golf Federation. The same applies to some young people who say to themselves, thanks to this department, they can play tournaments with big prize money. This is especially the case for Travis Smith. Join 20 minutesThe 28-year-old Australian golfer, who is accustomed to the Asian Tour, enjoyed himself alongside Mickelson, Garcia and Johnson, whom he had only seen on TV until then, during the first leg in London:

Players were greeted in an unusual way, which is not always the case in episodes. In the first three years of my career, I spent a lot of money making sure I was okay. Now, with LIV, with a little more money, it would allow me to continue to do things right, by paying for a professional pack and having more freedom. I am very happy to have come to this. Thanks LIV. »

PGA retaliates harshly

“The Saudis were opportunists, because golf is a sector without unions, and the players are left a bit alone, develops Romain Abbey, doctor of geopolitics. The players themselves are looking for profit. But the return of the club was not long for those who accepted Saudi tickets: the PGA Tour decided For its part, the European Tour punished European dissidents with a fine of more than 110,000 euros and informed them that it would be impossible for them to participate in the European Tour’s joint PGA Tour events.

Even golfers, such as Dustin Johnson of the Royal Canadian Bank, lost sponsors after joining the LIV Tour. Since the first stage, not a week has passed without the organizers of the new arena, or the “traitors” who joined it, were shot at by a stray bullet. After his victory in Toronto, Rory McIlroy sent Greg Norman, former golfer and manager of the Saudi circuit, to tell him, “It’s a day I will remember for a very, very long time. My 21st victory on the track, my win more than anyone else… It gives me extra motivation. . »

“on a blacklist in the European circuit”

Some even received warnings from their union, such as Spaniard David Puig, who did not respond to our requests. José Ignacio Gervás, DTN of the Spanish Federation, explained: “We would have preferred he not play this tournament. We didn’t like it, but it’s not in our hands. When you put a lot of money on the table, it’s normal for players, who don’t necessarily have well-established principles of loyalty, to make that decision.” He was told that there would likely be consequences, and his name is on some kind of blacklist of the European circuit. »

To avoid ending up naked, traditional establishments wore special clothes. The PGA has already announced that its prize money will increase next year, without competing with the amounts paid by the Saudis. Furthermore, if the PGA decides to fire the belligerents, the Majors, they haven’t made a decision yet. What will be the selection, for example, of the gentlemen of Augusta, against Garcia, Mickelson or Johnson, the guests of the office because the previous winners of the tournament. “It will all depend on the solidarity that will exist between the major tournaments, the European Tour and the PGA Tour, Judge Pascal Grizot. Because, in fact, if they are not able to align, it will show that the Saudis are not wrong in their desire to tear apart.”

Discuss for better organization

Who is there to see a threat to the existence of the PGA Tour? “We could end up with a formula like boxing, with many institutions, and a fragmentation of professional sports life, Romain Abi analyzes. I am not sure the PGA is gone, but I think the goal of the Saudis is to bring the two together. Chairman of the FFG, he is counting on dialogue to resolve the situation.” If, at the latter’s request, he had already met with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, director of the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, to explain his ideas to him, Pascal Grizot believed that a viable solution could be found for all:

There will be a lot that can be achieved if everyone is around the table and if golf can use the money that the Saudis have put on the table to find a product that does not disrupt the current system and achieve the goals that the Saudis seek, i.e. give them credibility in the world of sport and give a vision for their country. »

Because, at the moment, the second target is far from being investigated. With the many negative returns, whether on the sums invested, the form of competition (54 holes, simultaneous starting from different places, “unattractive”, according to José Ignacio Gervas) or the treatment of the press (journalist fired from London, interview not given in private), The LIV Golf Series has a hard time convincing. On the contrary, it revives the criticism leveled at the country on human rights.

Instagram discount codes

“With each of the investments that Saudi Arabia will make in the field of sports, there will automatically be an initial impact of introducing negative ‘phenomena’ to the country, as Roman Abiy develops. If we no longer talk about the Khashoggi case, we will talk about it again with LIV Golf Series. The same applies to the families of the 9/11 victims, who accuse the Saudis of being responsible for the attacks.All of this could ultimately work for the PGA.

And it’s not the connections launched by LIV that are likely to change much, such as the discount codes sent by Instagram by players like Lee Westwood or Ian Poulter, like vulgar reality TV influencers. And the Spanish DTN concluded by saying: “If, in the end, the organizers receive more criticism than good reactions, they will stop. If the Saudi government, instead of cleaning up its image, pollutes it even more, it will be over. »Live for me alone.

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