Play To Pay

What does the future hold for a sport so reliant on its top players? That’s where golf finds itself in my opinion. And the European Tour is in the firing line. I feel strongly about this and am concerned. It may well be me just being silly me, and hopefully it is. But I think there is a  precarious quandary in which golf at the highest level in Europe finds itself. It touches on a point I made in my last blog but I don’t think I expressed myself vigorously enough. It’s to do with appearance fees.

I am guessing now, but with hearsay in mind, I reckon if all appearance fees given to top players from the 2014 Desert Swing were poured back into the tournament prize funds, we would be playing for roughly $5-6million each week instead of $2.5million. That’s about the normal size of a PGA Tour prize fund. From what I understand, the PGA Tour doesn’t allow appearance fees. So effectively, the sponsors of these events in the Desert are pumping half the money into five or six peoples pockets. I wonder if the tour done away with appearance fees, how many top players would still come and play for $6million. My guess is quite a few.

Obviously the main reason for this situation as it stands currently is no top players would come and play without being paid hefty sums. And without them, the sponsors are understandably reluctant to pledge the same amounts as they do. Before even talking about ways this could potentially be resolved, I want to express my concerns with what is happening. Some players are being, dare I say it, a bit greedy. It’s easy for me to say that I know as I’m not in their fortunate situations, but the truth remains. To put it another way, some players are only returning to play on the tour that has paid (some of) them (well) over £15million in their careers, if they can be paid another large sum for just turning up. It epitomises greed and signals symptoms of amnesia.

Another scenario I can see panning out, and I’m hoping this will lead to the demise of appearance fees and not the rise, is the fact that there are a growing number of players becoming very good and very marketable. Inevitably, they (or their agents I should say) will push for an appearance fee. It could happen then that in the near future, 25 guys are being paid to show up and the other 125 are playing for £500,000. That surely sounds too ridiculous to even give thought but the way it’s going…

So how can it be resolved? The European Tour must be tougher on its players and the PGA Tour must remain humble and not seek a ‘world domination’ that isn’t worth existing. World ranking points could be spread differently. Rather than ranking points being dependant on the pool of players playing, they could select specific events which carry more points regardless of the fields. And there should be no bias towards the PGA Tour. Each tour must be respected as being equally significant. World ranking points must represent the crux of the change. They are the key to playing bigger events with bigger purses.

To finish, I again want to reiterate the players involvement in all of this. The future of the European Tour is largely dependant on its top players. I bet it’s lovely sitting by the pool in Florida driving a Ferrari but if one day in the future it was me looking back once retired seeing an environment that gave me all of what I’ve got struggling, because of the need to add another zero onto my bank account, I’d feel a bit empty. (I understand why players move to the US with the climate, facilities etc to foster improvement and that I respect) It’s slightly sad that giving back to the European Tour is going to be of the same necessity as creating opportunities for children. But the divide is growing and there’s a reason the United Kingdom is so special, because it taxes the rich and gives to the poor. Not the other way round.

From That Wise Old Owl, cheers.

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