The PGA and LIV golf seem to have reconciled their differences after they ended a bitter two-year standoff to form a merger along with the European DP world tour.
The future of LIV however, remains up in the air and it’s unclear how the merger between both competitions would work after the union was hastily announced last week. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the players will now earn more as a result. The PGA still controls the administration and governance of the newly formed entity as players gear up for the US Open on Thursday.
When asked about how he received the news of the merger Australia’s Cameron Smith said he, like many, had been caught off guard.
“I thought it was a joke when it came out,” he said.
The 2022 British Open Champion said there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how the rest of the year will play out in terms of the scheduling of both tournaments.
“I think there’s still a lot of stuff to be worked out and as time goes on we’ll get to know more and more,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot of curious players on both sides as to what the future is going to look like.”
Rory Mcllroy when asked about the merger at the Canadian Open also expressed surprise.
The four-time major champion, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of LIV, said he had mixed feelings about the merger but hoped it would be a force for good.
“Ultimately, when I try and remove myself from the situation and I look at the bigger picture… I think it’s going to be good for the game of professional golf,” he said.
“It unifies and secures its financial future.”
A great day in global golf for players and fans alike. The journey continues!!
— Greg Norman (@SharkGregNorman) June 6, 2023
Awesome day today 😊 https://t.co/qUwVJiydym
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) June 6, 2023
Led by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia’s powerful Pubic Investment Fund (PIF) and it’s governor Yasir al-Rumayyan, LIV shook up the world of golf after it poached several of the game’s biggest stars including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
The richest tournament in golf history offered players contracts worth $100 million with Mickelson reportedly signing for $200 million. The tournament which hosts 14 events played on a 54-hole circuit gives players the opportunity to compete for a slice of $25 million in prize money. The winner of each event walks away with $4 million while players who finish last are guaranteed $120,000 in earnings.
Tiger Woods, who has also voiced his opposition to the tournament, knocked back an offer from LIV officials which was believed to be worth up to $800 million. Norman told Fox News the golf icon was approached with an offer to join the league before he became CEO.
While LIV (the Roman numerals for 54) has become another cog in Saudi Arabia’s numerous alleged “sports washing” events, the saga between it and the PGA is the latest episode in sport’s complicated relationship with breakaway leagues. It all comes downs to the one aspect that has come to define modern sports: money, money and more money.
Here are a few examples of infamous breakaway leagues that threatened some of the biggest sporting codes.
Super League War
Backed by News Limited, the Super League war of the 1990’s threatened to derail rugby league in Australia.
Clubs were forced to choose between the Australian Rugby League or join Super League as media tycoons Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer fought for rights to broadcast the game across their respective pay television networks Optus and Foxtel. In doing so, the aim was to attract audiences worldwide while having the who’s who of rugby league including Ricky Stuart and Alan Langer, who were paid significantly more than their ARL counterparts.
Super League lasted just one season in 1997 before it merged with the ARL in 1998. It proved costly for players and fans when the eventual merger with the ARL created the the National Rugby League (NRL), which saw several foundation clubs no longer part of the competition.
World Series Cricket
The birth of one day international cricket in 1971 didn’t shift the dial much, but World Series Cricket in the late ’70s revolutionised the sport with a white ball, brightly-coloured clothing, and night time matches. Ultimately, however, it was just as well known for media tycoon Packer’s lust to acquire the broadcast rights to the game.
Like the Super League war, World Series Cricket was sold to players as an opportunity to earn significantly more than they were getting paid playing Test match and first class cricket.
Tony Greig, Ian Chappell and Clive Lloyd were some of the big names who signed on to play with the World XI, Australia, and the West Indies respectively. The format achieved success in 1978 when Australia played the West Indies at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of over 44,000 people.
The series lasted for two years and had a particular impact on Australian players. Those who joined Packer’s series were resented among those who didn’t sign when they all got back together to play for Australia however, World Series Cricket did pave the way for limited formats of the game.
WTA and the “Original 9”
Perhaps one of the very few breakaway leagues that changed sport for the better was started by tennis icon Billie Jean King and a group of eight women players known as the “original nine”, who decided to form their own tournament in the 1970s.
King led the movement which championed equal pay for professional female players, who at the time were earning half as much as their male counterparts. The original nine signed up to play in the Virginia Slims circuit in Houston for just $1.
The US tennis association threatened to suspend players who took part in the one-off event, which would bar them from competing in grand slams.
More players began to sign up to play in the Virginia Slims Circuit, however, which gave birth to the the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in 1973. Last year, the finals of the WTA was contested with $5 million in prize money and the winner walking away with $1.68 million.
European Super League
Andrea Agnelli, the former owner of Italian soccer giants Juventus, made a bid to set up a European Super League in 2021.
The competition was to include 12 of some of the biggest football clubs across Europe including Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid on an invitation only basis. There would be no promotion or relegation among the clubs.
The idea was to create a league separate to the current UEFA Champions League with some owners of football clubs unhappy with the format of the Champions League.
It’s plans however were thwarted by English football fans who protested against the move which led to the six English premier league clubs abandoning their interest in joining the project.
While it’s unlikely the European Super League will ever become a reality, the Spanish and Italian clubs who were slated to be a part of the competition are still unhappy with the Champions League which could pave the way for Agnelli’s now defunct project to resurface at a later stage.
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons