PGA Tour PIF Revolution

Member Insights: You say you want a revolution, four moments that changed sport

June 8, 2023

In this Member Insight piece, our Content Manager, Alex Brinton, looks at the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour merger with the PIF and some of the other times the world of sport has been changed by revolution.

PGA TOUR and DP World Tour merger with the PIF

Tuesday’s shock merger between LIV and the PGA TOUR has brought together golf’s two warring factions. The LIV tour came to life in 2021, but the first event didn’t take place until 366 days ago. Backed by the PIF, LIV’s tour has handed out eye-watering contracts to the leading players in the game, including $200 million for the services of Phil Mickelson. Throughout the last year, we have seen more of the world’s leading players move over to LIV including last month’s US Open winner, Brooks Koepka. 

It cannot be stressed enough how out of the blue this merger has come.

It is not clear how the merger will be structured, so I want to avoid commenting on that but from the initial press release it is clear that the Governor of the PIF will be chairman of the new joint venture. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the new chairman, is a busy man: alongside his role in golf, he is the chairman of Newcastle United, chairman of Saudi Aramco and has been described by Forbes as a “confidante to Mohammed Bin Salman” the ruler of Saudi Arabia. It was reported in The Athletic that an anonymous source said Al-Rumayyan has been “given the responsibility of putting Bin Salman’s vision into practice.”  From the initial reporting, it looks like current Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Jay Monahon, will take up a CEO role which could see him reporting into Al-Rumuyyan.

Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket

This is probably the most similar case to what we have seen with the PIF and the PGA TOUR. 

Back in the 1970s, the Australian cricket team was one of the most sought-after TV properties in Australia. Packer, who owned Channel 9, wanted to broadcast the games on his channel. Despite offering a lot more than rival channel ABC, the Australian Cricket Board chose the lower offer. 

Packer’s response to this was to sign up all the best players in Australia, West Indies and the rest of the world and create his own competition – broadcast on Channel 9. Australian players who joined the breakaway series were banned from playing for their country. Like LIV, World Series Cricket wasn’t an instant hit with poor attendances in its first year. After an extensive marketing campaign, the second season took off. Packer’s World Series Cricket brought to the fore lots of innovations that are now common in the game: day/night games, stump microphones and coloured clothes. After the second season, the Australian Cricket Board were suffering massive financial losses and came to a ten-year broadcast agreement with Packer.

The Bosman Ruling

Jean-Marc Bosman was an unremarkable Belgian midfielder plying his trade at RFC Liege. In his two seasons, he made three appearances. When his two-year contract expired he tried to move to Dunkerque, but Liege didn’t want to let him go. Bosman sued Liege, the Belgian FA and UEFA arguing that being forced to stay at a club when out of contract was a breach of his human rights. He was successful and set a precedent that changed football forever. 

Since then, players have been able to move from one club to another for free when their contracts expire.

Rugby Union turning professional

Looking back it is hard to believe that a sport that was capable of filling some of the nation’s biggest stadiums, hosting World Cups and unifying nations was still amateur. But that was the case for Rugby Union in 1995. The Rugby World Cup of 1995 was held in South Africa, a country still divided post-apartheid. 

During the tournament, there was talk among the players of the game turning professional, but the older generations who worked on the boards of the governing bodies were against the idea because it went against what they saw as the values of the sport. 

However, a lot of the best rugby union players were being poached by rugby league teams who – being fully professional – were able to offer them much higher salaries. Something had to give and it did after southern hemisphere players threatened to join a breakaway league, similar to Packer’s World Series Cricket, but this time funded by media rival Rupert Murdoch. The union’s relented and agreed to make the game professional.

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PGA Tour PIF Revolution