Times Colonist

PGA Tour gets share of Euro­pean Tour me­dia com­pany

- Sports · Golf · PGA Tour · Asia · Japan · United States of America · United Kingdom · Dubai · PGA European Tour · Jay Monahan · Rory McIlroy · Championship · Sherwood · Wentworth, NH · DP World

The PGA Tour has ac­quired a mi­nor­ity stake in the Euro­pean Tour’s me­dia pro­duc­tion com­pany as part of an al­liance an­nounced Fri­day, a big first step to­ward de­vel­op­ing a more uni­fied golf sched­ule around the world.

The deal ef­fec­tively makes the two lead­ing tours more part­ners than ri­vals. The tours said the al­liance would al­low them to col­lab­o­rate on com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties and global me­dia rights in cer­tain ter­ri­to­ries.

“The PGA Tour moves from a com­peti­tor to a part­ner,” Keith Pel­ley, chief ex­ec­u­tive for the Euro­pean Tour, said on a con­fer­ence call.

While seen as a piv­otal first step, any no­tion of a world tour — which golf ex­ec­u­tives have con­tem­plated for more than a decade — re­mains some years away. The im­me­di­ate goal is to fig­ure out a sched­ule that keeps the tours from com­pet­ing against each other and strength­en­ing events on both sides of the At­lantic and be­yond.

Pel­ley of­fered few de­tails on sched­ul­ing, ac­cess to tours or even ne­go­ti­at­ing me­dia rights.

As part of the agree­ment, PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han will join the Euro­pean Tour board as a non-ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber who would have a vote. “They have a mon­e­tary in­vest­ment in our busi­ness,” he said of the PGA Tour.

Pel­ley said the board’s ap­proval of the part­ner­ship was unan­i­mous.

The an­nounce­ment is likely to put an end to the Premier Golf League, which a year ago was court­ing the world’s best play­ers for a team-based cir­cuit and funded in part by Saudi money. Rory McIl­roy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka re­jected the idea right be­fore the pan­demic.

Pel­ley said The Raine Group, a pri­vate eq­uity firm be­hind the Premier Golf League, pre­sented a “com­pelling of­fer to take the Euro­pean Tour to an­other level, but in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.”

“We felt part­ner­ing with the PGA Tour was the best op­tion,” he said.

Pel­ley said the part­ner­ship grew out of golf or­ga­ni­za­tions hav­ing to work to­gether at the start of the COVID-19 pan­demic to re­ar­range the ma­jor cham­pi­onship sea­son for men and women.

“We shared the chal­lenges of work­ing through a year nei­ther of us could have ever imag­ined and we found def­i­nite syn­er­gies in many ar­eas of our re­spec­tive tours,” Pel­ley said.

The an­nounce­ment comes to­ward the end of a dev­as­tat­ing year fi­nan­cially for both tours. The PGA Tour has lost more money than the Euro­pean be­cause of its size, though it had more in re­serve to han­dle the cri­sis.

The PGA Tour shut down for three months, then re­sumed on June 8 and has played a tour­na­ment ev­ery week ex­cept for this one, with no re­duc­tion in prize money. Two of its Asia tour­na­ments, in South Korean and Ja­pan, moved to the west­ern U.S. with a purse of $9.75 mil­lion US (CJ Cup at Shadow Creek) and $8 mil­lion (Zozo Cham­pi­onship at Sher­wood).

The Euro­pean Tour re­sumed in July with a se­ries of new tour­na­ments geared to­ward giv­ing its mem­bers events to play while main­tain­ing a strict bubble to pro­tect against the spread of the coro­n­avirus. Play­ers would stay in re­gions such as the Ibe­rian penin­sula and the U.K., though the to­tal purse was rarely more than one mil­lion eu­ros (about $1.5 mil­lion Cdn). The ex­cep­tions were the BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship at Went­worth, the flag­ship event at its head­quar­ters, the Scot­tish Open and the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship next month in Dubai.

The gap be­tween the tours has grown so much in the past decade there have been rum­blings of a merger of the tours, or even a takeover, given the PGA Tour’s wealth.

Mon­a­han re­ferred only to a part­ner­ship, say­ing: “We look for­ward to work­ing to­gether for the ben­e­fit of the men’s pro­fes­sional game and for golf fans around the world.”

Pel­ley dis­puted the no­tion of a merger, sug­gest­ing that would hap­pen only if the tour had fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties or there were sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for the play­ers. He said the Euro­pean Tour had a strong bal­ance sheet, which al­lowed it to cre­ate 15 events dur­ing the pan­demic.

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