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Is The LIV Tour Actually Good For Golf?

close up golf club and ball painted with saudi arabia flagThere is the argument that any kind of publicity is good publicity. Especially for anything that is already considered to be in the public eye. Most sports already have their fair share of fans and, as a result, are essentially ‘money-spinners’, particularly when you factor in corporate sponsorship.

Some sports obviously do better than others commercially, with these factors based on popularity. There appears to be an acceptance that a sport like football will always be more of a magnet and perhaps, the most attractive in the world, though there are considerable attractions to other sports. Indeed, many sports fans often have a ‘second sport’ and in many cases, this is golf.

For the last couple of decades, there has been a significant amount of attraction to golf, certainly commercially, when you factor in the talent that we have been privy to, which has raised the profile of the sport even more – and – globally.

Major tournaments, such as the US Masters and the The Open Championship are two of the most-watched events in the sporting calendar, a combination of talent and glorious scenery being factors that influence this, while the PGA Tour also has similar crossover.

However, the recent introduction of the LIV tour has prompted split opinion from many involved in the game (players and pundits alike), as to whether this is good for the game long term.

What Is LIV And Why Could It Be Bad For The Sport?

liv golf logoEssentially, this was proposed to effectively, if not replace the PGA Tour, then rival it, and is a Saudi-financed initiative, in order to attract the best talent, with significant fees offered to those players invited.

LIV refers to the roman numeral of ‘54’ – which would be the total score if every hole on a par-72 golf course was birdied. The idea behind the initiative was to attempt to enhance the reputation of Saudi Arabia, which has been criticised for human rights abuse; with LIV being one way to try and achieve this; through one of the most followed sports in the world.

Several top players have been attracted to LIV since it was incorporated, including former world number one and 2018 US Masters winner, Patrick Reed. The US golfer has since faced much criticism recently; which has led to a suggested feud between him and his 2018 opponent, Rory McIlroy who crossed paths again at the Dubai Desert Classic.

The argument is that, LIV in some cases will dilute the quality of the game overall, taking the best players from the PGA, which may in the long term, look to impose sanctions on these golfers to prevent them from taking part in major tournaments, which have helped to put the sport on the map over the last few decades.

LIV would look to entice them by offering them huge amounts of money as a way of compensating them for not being able to take part in these, so it essentially comes down to ambition.

There are similar parallels to other sports such as football. In recent years, we have seen football players become attracted to play in less prestigious football leagues, but which have been effectively ‘state-backed’ and as a result are able to attract top players by offering them considerably higher salaries.

China, for a while, was one country that succeeded in this, for at least a while, in a bid to raise the profile of the Chinese football league. As a result, many players faced widespread criticism for ‘following the money’, instead of continuing to perform at the highest level in competitions such as the English Premier League.

The obvious argument is that LIV, in the long term, could cause the sport’s best players to jump ship. Many viewers around the world tune in to the major tournaments to watch the best talent in the sport and this could have an affect on the status of these over the next few years if LIV is successful.

What Elements Could See LIV Benefit?

phil mickelson taking a swing at a golf tournamentPerhaps the obvious factor that may influence the success of LIV, is the level of corporate sponsorship that could stem from how successful it is in being able to attract the best players and whether this can occur on a regular basis.

If this happens, it would increase the likelihood of this becoming popular with viewers who want to continue to watch the best golfers and, then as a result, this could influence the amount of money that is then invested by commercial entities.

Whether this is via the sponsorship of players or an increase in television advertisement revenue, if viewing figures look positive, both of these may have a positive effect. As such, it could then lead to a build up of resorts around those designated golf courses that are chosen for the LIV circuit, which may in turn, could attract even more potential spectators.

As with any major event that is hosted on a continuous basis in a permanent place, tourism usually follows and with LIV at the epicentre of this, it could well regenerate its image as a major contributor to certain economies, creating employment and establishing new infrastructure in places.

Should this happen, it could well be hard to argue that LIV is bad for the sport, though, there may always be an affection for the ‘original’ format. It ultimately would depend on how many players are swayed and end up joining LIV.

An Expensive Experiment?

golf ball with dollar signs for eyes drooling

What is clear is that Saudi Arabia is attempting to transform its public image and having identified sport as a way to do this, it could well be that there are hopes this may pay off. However, still with considerable opposition, this may not work out in its entirety.

While the sovereign state might be able to afford to plunge hundreds of millions into this project, it may not be enough to fully win over public perception and, as such, could end up reminding fans why they were so fond of the original format.

It could come down to player power, either way in terms of influencing the popularity and also the global status of the golfer’s who accept the invites, especially if they personally commit a percentage of their hefty fees to helping at grassroots level in their home towns or cities. There could well be a fair way to go before this debate is settled.

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