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  • Alistair Tait

Still Waiting For Strategic Alliance Joy

November 27, 2020 was a “landmark“ moment for world golf. The game’s two biggest professional tours announced a “strategic alliance” that, in the words of one of the main protagonists, European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley (above), would be “for the benefit of the men’s professional game.”

By my rough calculation, it’s been 242 days since Pelley announced the strategic alliance he and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan cooked up to see off the squillions of dollars the Saudi-back Premier Golf League was willing to throw at the game. The PGA Tour acquired a minority investment in the European Tour Media Productions and a seat on the European Tour board, a first in European Tour history.

And still we wait to see what those benefits will bring to men’s professional golf in general, and the European Tour in particular. Those benefits must be mega, or surely the fine print of the agreement would have been announced by now?

Let’s remind ourselves what was promised on that November Friday 242 days ago. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the official press release to jog our memories.

“The landmark agreement will see golf’s two major Tours explore all facets of collaboration, working together on strategic commercial opportunities including collaborating on global media rights in certain territories.
“The Tours will also work in partnership on a number of other areas including global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for the respective memberships. Further details of these areas will be announced in due course.”

Quite the hype, huh?

And still we wait. Who knew "in due course" could take so long?

I’ve only ever covered professional tours. I’ve never actually ran one, but I’d have thought if both circuits are making plans for the 2022 season then they should be in place by now.

The coming together of both circuits can’t come soon enough for the junior partner in this strategic alliance. Pelley and his team have done a fantastic job putting together a schedule during the pandemic to allow European Tour members to continue to ply their trade. However, all you have to do is look at the prize funds and strength of the fields on this year’s schedule, compare them to what’s on offer on the PGA Tour, and it’s no surprise many European Tour members are champing at the bit to see where the European Tour is heading with this strategic alliance.

Last week’s Cazoo Open was worth just €1.25 million against the PGA Tour’s $6.6 million 3M Open. That’s actually a low-budget PGA Tour event, where purses average around $8 million. The Cazoo Open is by no means a one off: it’s one of 18 tournaments on this year’s schedule worth €1.5 million or less.

Again, well done to Pelley and his team for coming up with a schedule given how the European Tour has suffered the effects of Covid far more than the PGA Tour. However, money talks in this game. Young European stars like Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Wallace, Viktor Hovland and others have made it clear they are intent on emulating veterans like Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and others and make the PGA Tour their main circuit, albeit continuing to support the European Tour.

It doesn’t require a PhD to realise the most obvious benefit the European Tour can reap from this strategic alliance is persuading its star names to play their own circuit on a more regular basis. That can only come from “global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities” promised 242 days ago.

The European Tour turned down a chance to take Saudi money to build a circuit that could have rivalled the PGA Tour in a significant way. Pelley and the European Tour made the right choice from an ethical standpoint. From a business standpoint… Well, only time will tell. European Tour members will hope getting into bed with the PGA Tour pays off in the long run.

I hear through the grape vine an announcement on the strategic alliance benefits is imminent. It can’t come soon enough for the European Tour.

Over to you Keith.

#JustSaying: “I never wanted to be a millionaire: I just wanted to live like one.” Walter Hagen

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