Plans to launch a new global golf tour in 2022 to attract the world’s elite players have resurfaced after a company calling itself the World Golf Group Ltd issued a statement to the media on Friday (January 24).
Rumours of the World Golf Group’s ambitions to create a new global series of big money tournaments – called the Premier Golf League – have been doing the rounds on the professional circuit for several years, with a number player management companies approached about the idea of an 18-tournament schedule for the world’s top players back in 2014, and again in 2018, but the trail ran cold, until now.
A statement released on behalf of Premier Golf League Limited (PGL) on January 24 said: “There has been significant speculation relating to our plans to launch ‘The League’, a new professional golf format that will be comprised of 18 events per season. While we do not wish to comment further at this time, we would like to say that it is our intention to work with, rather than challenge, existing tours for the betterment of golf as a sport, pastime and media property, and we have partnered with the Raine Group to help make this vision a reality. We appreciate the interest and look forward to providing everyone with further details.”
A further statement from PGL continued: “If you want the world to watch, you have to showcase your best product, week-in-week-out. Golf doesn’t do that currently. If you had the chance to start again you wouldn’t create professional golf as it exists today. The league is that chance. We believe we’ll succeed because the league is what fans, sponsors and broadcasters want — and the best players deserve. It will revitalise the sport for this and future generations.”
According to an article published in The Telegraph on January 25, the Raine Group describes itself as an ‘integrated merchant bank advising and investing in high growth sectors of technology, media and telecom’, and among other sporting interests, is connected with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and US baseball team the LA Dodgers
According to a report in the Scotsman newspaper, under the World Golf Group’s proposals, 48 players would compete in 18 tournaments, each over 54 holes, in an eight-month season from January to September, for a total prize fund of $240 million with no cut and an individual and team league format. The weekly individual winner would claim $2m of the $10m purse, the overall individual champion will receive a $10m bonus and there will be a $40m team prize fund, with $14m split between the winning four-man team.
The issue of the Premier Golf League was discussed at last week’s PGA Tour player meeting at the Farmers Insurance Open, where PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke to players about the pitfalls of the concept, suggesting that anyone who signs up for the tour will no longer be welcome on the PGA Tour. He said: “If the Team Golf Concept or another iteration of this structure becomes a reality in 2022 or at any time before or after, our members will have to decide whether they want to continue to be a member of the PGA Tour or play on a new series.”
The European Tour has not issued a formal statement on the matter, but when asked by the Press Association about the prospect of a rival tour, chief executive Keith Pelley replied: “I think they’ve been trying to move forward for eight years, but I can’t comment on other tours, and certainly one that is not real.”
Ernie Els, who turned down an approach from Greg Norman, who was planning a similar world tour concept in the mid-1990s which failed to get off the ground, said: “There’s a lot of really great positives about it, but they’re going to have to figure out how they work with the existing tours. If the players support it, then it’s a done deal because that’s where television will go and the fans will follow. So it’s really up to the existing top world players.”
Few of the current crop of top players have spoken publicly about the proposals, although Rory McIlroy, who was competing at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, told reporters, “Those guys [the World Golf Group] approached me at the end of 2014. I love the PGA Tour, but the way golf at the highest level is nowadays, and how it’s sort of transitioned from a competition tour to entertainment, makes it a very different time than what it was before. So it might be the catalyst for something a little bit different out here, who knows?”