Fri, 22 Sep 2023

PGA Tour attacks Saudi-backed rival in lawsuit
30 Sep 2022, 16:27 GMT+10

The PGA Tour has launched legal proceedings against the LIV Golf series

The PGA Tour has alleged that the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series offered massive sums of money to players to breach their contracts as part of the 'sportswashing' of Saudi Arabia's international reputation, as the American organization launched a counter-claim lawsuit.

LIV had claimed in prior litigation proceedings that the PGA had violated accepted competition laws by suspending and fining rebel players who had joined the breakaway group.

However, in a sternly-worded legal complaint, the PGA said that LIV Golf's strategy was to profit from the reputations of players who succeed on the PGA Tour, and host them on its own platforms.

"A key component of LIV's strategy has been to intentionally induce Tour members to breach their Tour agreements and play in LIV events while seeking to maintain their Tour memberships and play in marquee Tour events, so LIV can free ride off the Tour and its platform," the lawsuit claims.

It argued that the entire LIV Golf series appeared designed to use the sport as a vehicle with which to 'sportswash' Saudi Arabia's reputation on the international stage, which follows the country's high-profile hosting of various other sporting events, including Formula 1 and boxing.

A selection of internationally renowned players has joined up with LIV Golf, including six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and former number one-ranked player Dustin Johnson. 

Mickelson was reportedly paid a sum of $200 million to join LIV Golf, while Johnson is said to have earned $150 million. Another player, Cameron Smith, admitted that money was a key factor in his decision to make a similar move. 

Swedish star Henrik Stenson forfeited his captaincy of Europe's Ryder Cup team to join up with the breakaway group. Captaincy of the Ryder Cup is generally considered to be among the biggest honors a player can achieve in their career.

In its initial response, however, LIV Golf said that it is confident that the legal system will show that it has not been involved in any wrongdoing.

"The Tour has made these counterclaims in a transparent effort to divert attention from their anti-competitive conduct," it said in a statement.

"We remain confident that the courts and the justice system will right these wrongs."

READ MORE: Rebel Saudi league golfers sue PGA over sanctions

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