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Saudi PIF backs Asian Tour with US$200m investment

State-backed LIV Golf Investments to implement new ten-event series.

1 November 2021 Rory Jones

Getty Images

  • PGA Tour and European Tour both oppose new format
  • Greg Norman appointed LIV Golf Investments CEO

LIV Golf Investments, an investment firm under the majority ownership of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is set to invest US$200 million into golf’s Asian Tour.

LIV aims to revamp the Asian Tour by implementing a new ten-event series starting in 2022 and running for at least a decade thereafter. The investment continues PIF’s sports spending spree, after it recently acquired a controlling 80 per cent stake in Premier League club Newcastle United as part of a UK£300 million (US$410 million) takeover deal.

Plans for a new Asian Tour format, which would run as an alternative to the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and European Tour competitions, have been opposed by both rival tours.

The US$200 million investment is one of the single biggest investments in the history of professional golf, with plans for the money to go towards supporting playing opportunities and prize funds.

The ten new events will be staged across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. LIV says that the schedule has been designed to ‘drive greater engagement amongst fans, attract new commercial interest and to help stabilise professional golf’ post-pandemic.

The series will take the Asian Tour’s total number of events per season to 25, with the expectation of a record-breaking combined prize-fund for 2022. LIV plans to broadcast the ten new events globally and is hoping to attract an international field of headline talent through an open eligibility category, regardless of Tour affiliation.

In September, the Asian Tour revealed a ten-year partnership with Golf Saudi, which will see the Saudi International now included in its series, having previously been a part of the European Tour. That event will become the flagship tournament on the Asian Tour, featuring an increased prize fund of US$5 million and enhanced exemption requirements.

Before Covid-19 disrupted the 2020 season, the Asian Tour in 2019 had 24 events in 13 countries with a total prize pool of US$25 million for the whole season. The Singapore-based series has confirmed it plans to resume events in November, with four tournaments scheduled in Thailand and Singapore in the coming months.

Retired Australian golf star Greg Norman (pictured above) has been appointed chief executive of LIV. The former world number one proposed a breakaway World Golf Tour in the early 1990s, before the PGA Tour introduced the World Golf Championships.

“This is only the beginning,” Norman said.

He added: “I have been a staunch supporter and believer in playing and developing golf in Asia for more than four decades.

“The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share an ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential.

“We see our promotion of these new events as a vital first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform, rich with playing opportunities that create valuable player pathways.”

The Asian Tour’s commissioner, Cho Minn Thant, said: “This is the single biggest development in the history of the Asian Tour and a major milestone for professional golf.

“The opportunity will secure unprecedented new playing opportunities, establish new player pathways, allow us to compete commercially with other sports, and enhance our social agenda.

“We are particularly excited at the prospect today’s landmark announcement brings to the amateur game, providing new inspiration to aspiring players through a new level of top-flight professional competition in the region.”

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