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DP World Tour Deals Latest Legal Blow to LIV Golf Players

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
An independent panel upheld the fines of 12 LIV golfers following their appearance at the tour’s inaugural event in Hertfordshire, England last June.

All eyes are on Augusta this weekend as this year’s crop of competitors begins their quest for a green jacket at the 2023 Masters.

The tradition unlike any other will bring together golfers from both the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed breakaway competition LIV Golf — that is, as long as they can set aside the various legal battles that divide the new school from the old school.

In the United Kingdom this week, an independent arbitration panel ruled in favor of the DP World Tour for the £100,000 fines (just under $125,000) it administered to 16 players who opted out of Tour play in order to make an appearance at the first-ever LIV Golf League event at the Centurion Club outside London last summer.

“It’s great that it has given us clarity — not just for golf, but for sports organizations,” DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley said of the decision. “Sports organizations now will look at this landmark case and understand that they have rules and regulations. There’s rules and regulations everywhere and it’s not okay to just sign up for something and then just arbitrarily decide not to adhere to those rules and regulations. That’s the way the world works. That’s life.”

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Europe’s DP World Tour, which runs Europe’s most popular PGA tournaments, including the Scottish Open, refused to grant waivers to its members who bypassed Tour events to compete in the inaugural LIV tournament, which took place last June at England’s Centurion Club. The Tour alleges that the athletes violated the terms of their agreement with the Tour that was created by their fellow members and that participation in LIV events impacts the scheduling and overall business of the DP World Tour. In response to the violation, administered the fine to each participant.

Initially, 16 golfers who had defected to the golf competition supported by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund collectively attempted to appeal the fine. However, four of those players, including Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, and Branden Grace, removed themselves from the appeal, leaving 12 at the final decision. Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter ultimately led the charge, but their efforts fell short.

After closed-door deliberations that first convened in February, an independent, three-person Sport Resolutions panel ruled on behalf of Keith Pelley and the DP World Tour. In the decision, the panel concluded that the CEO had “acted entirely reasonably in refusing releases.”

Following the Tour’s initial decision, the golfers in question were prohibited from playing at the Scottish Open and other DP World Tour events throughout the 2022 season. As a result of the most recent ruling, they may not be able to participate in the upcoming Ryder Cup, which is set to take place Sept. 25-Oct. 1 at Italy’s Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.

Across the pond, a number of LIV-affiliated golfers are embroiled in a separate antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Stay tuned — it’s likely that the global golf wars have barely begun.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.