Feb 18th, 2020
Premier Golf League
Precedent suggests a battle royal
Words: GolfPunk Photography: Getty Images
For those of a certain age and most likely from this side of the pond will see parallels between the move by the proposed Premier Golf League and the World Series Cricket (WSC) competition of the late 1970s. Both ventures share two fundamental drivers, the chance for players to earn more money and access to broadcast rights for the organisers.
WSC was a professional cricket competition staged between 1977 and 1979 and organised by Kerry Packer, the owner of Nine Network, an Australian television network. As a breakaway competition, the matches ran in opposition to established international cricket. The audacious move by Packer enraged the cricket authorities and ended up in the competing players ostracised, vilified and banned from playing for their countries.
In the case of WSC, the players of the time considered they did not earn enough from cricket to make a living. At the same time, Packer was infuriated that he was unable to secure the exclusive broadcasting rights to Australian cricket.
There is no comparison between the levels of earnings in the game of the cricket back in the seventies and what top golfers earn these days but given the comments of some players, it is obvious that the sums of money bandied about have turned their heads, or perhaps more accurately their agents' heads.
It is also clear that the value of the broadcast and sponsorship rights is the driver of the proposal by British based World Golf Group for a Premier Golf League consisting of an 18 event circuit featuring the top 48 players in the world.
We are now learning of more details of how the league would be structured and the total prize fund of $240 million will be doled out. Twelve players are to be ‘franchise’ holders and team owners using a model based on F1 Grand Prix.
Running alongside the eighteen individual strokeplay events would be a team event. The twelve four-man teams would play for another pot of money
As was the case with the International Cricket Conference and the individual country organisations we can expect the PGA and European Tours to cut up rough. Both have stated in no uncertain terms that players would have to choose between the Premier Golf League and the existing tours.
The players would still be able to compete in the four majors, as they are all run by different bodies but they would miss out on all other events.
The players themselves are in the main playing their cards close to their chest, confirming they have had conversations but no more, however, not one player has dismissed the venture. It is clear that for the league to work all the top players will need to come on board as splitting the talent will not work.
A Premier Golf League without Tiger just isn’t going to happen as is probably the case for the likes of Rory and Brooks. However, one of the unanswered questions is how the top 48 will be defined and how players move in and out of the league?
There is a whole multitude of questions that must be answered but one thing is clear the Premier Golf League is not going away in a hurry. This story will run and run, and one thing is clear it will end in tears.
As was the case with the ‘Packer Circus’ as it became known, there will be a lot of bad feeling and undoubtedly a court case or two.
We think the World Golf Group may have missed a trick in not trying to include the women. A team format with at least one woman on each team would have added a very interesting dynamic to the event!
And another thing...