I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about LIV Golf generally. While off the golf course, my mind tends to wander in a single direction and that’s very much away from the game and instead at financial markets and the economy. How or why exactly I came to be interested in such things is something I’ve never fully understood. What I do find fascinating about the world of finance is its interaction with human behaviour, how that drives cycles, and how the inevitability of laws are bent over time via narratives and perceptions, manipulated by our good selves of course. We surely are at unusual times in both golf, and the economy. While golf is witnessing a major power struggle between the two main tours and a disruptive so called start-up, markets have largely forgotten about the crazed IPO’s of 2020/21 and instead are confronting a much larger foe, namely inflation.
It’s a good job LIV Golf isn’t being offered up publicly in 2022. The cravings for overpriced promises have sunk. When the Super League was touted a year or so ago in football, at least the teams involved were at the top of the game. The current golfing equivalent is tantamount to Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle seeking participation. I don’t want that to come across as overly rude to the names involved, I have been and continue to be an admirer of their achievements, it’s just at some point you have to recognise the current picture for what it is. This was my point in my tweet about ROI. I know the Saudi’s have an almost unlimited pool of cash. But I also believe they will not continue to fund an endeavour to the tune of hundreds of millions, unless bigger stars show up. It would surely be felt as such an embarrassment, and given the primordial nature of the source, reputation will matter.
In the interest of fairness, I am duty bound to see it from the eyes of those who have signed up. Particularly those who are of a similar age to me. Of course, I have a good friend who has chosen to play LIV Golf and we have had discussions about it. My biggest concern right now if I was someone breaking through over here in Europe would be; how do I get across onto the PGA Tour? The avenue has narrowed, and with the OWGR changes coming in, it will narrow further. One of Keith Pelley’s aims has to be securing a route to the PGA Tour as no CEO of any business should want to deal with ambitious individuals who feel curtailed in their future opportunities and overall career progression. This is something that so far hasn’t been communicated very well to the membership, and although I believe there are plans in the pipeline, it would be in the best interest of all parties involved to inform us sooner rather than later. But beyond this uncertainty, I don’t see a solid reason for heading across to play LIV Golf. Other than the money of course. But I’m more of the Bob MacIntyre mould.
One thing we can be sure of is that this is now about power. And during such times, relatively extraordinary things can happen, as we have all seen in recent times both politically and geopolitically. As an onlooker, it is clear to me that at the moment the major corporate partners of both the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour are committed to one another. Additionally, major companies have decided to cut ties with individuals who have moved across. This is another example of what we have seen happen in Russia. Big corporations wield enormous influence and are being upheld to the highest standards across society. Which brings me to ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). Companies now have a duty to commit to ESG targets, and in some circumstances even if they wish to receive funding from certain quarters. It might come as no surprise to many of you that I’m no fan of ESG as a concept, but it is a reality we now have to live with. Over time therefore, I would say it is less likely major corporates will side with any endeavour that doesn’t have within it certain ESG targets. (let alone ones that pay out circa $30million a week to 50 guys, if wider economic upheaval persists) What this effectively ensures then is that LIV Golf will remain solely funded by the Saudi’s. And although the funding likely wont be a problem, it leaves the whole project reliant on the whims of a subsidiary of an authoritarian regime in the Middle East. Not making a moral judgement when I say that, just adding that volatility is something that probably accompanies such a regime.
One final point I would make, and this isn’t something I’ve not said before, but ultimately this is fundamentally something to be avoided as if it takes off, then over time it will have the effect of accruing almost all of the wealth in the hands of the very few. I am all for wealth creation, there aren’t many better feelings than earning a lot of money and I’ve been fortunate to do so at times (long ago!). But one thing I do believe is that money trickles down about as effectively as something else does down a sock… (remains maybe my only Twitter regret) Even Paul Krugman now acknowledges this. (The money part..) One major challenge all ecosystems face is to ensure inequality doesn’t run amok. A black hole will over time swallow everything that gets in its way, and though it might feel good about it, it won’t have much to show for it. One of golfs most enduring and endearing aspects is the breadth of wealth it has created at the top of the game, this has allowed players from all around the world to earn a good living, and to do good things with when they get back home. It is quite unique to golf, we should fight to keep it that way in my opinion.
Admittedly there are many other points and counter points that could be made and I know this is a fairly divisive topic at the moment in golf. Ultimately, I wish everyone well in their commitments.
I still haven’t got my luggage.