The head of LIV admits that the tour may pay for TV coverage in an effort to build a presence

It may pay for TV coverage temporarily as it tries to build a long-term presence, the president of Lev’s confusing new golf course told AFP, adding that Saudi backers of the tour are looking forward to a decade or more.

LIV, whose lure of record-breaking big players has angered the golf company’s founding, is currently on a “promotional tour” for US and international broadcasters, President and Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla said in the Jeddah invitation.

Responding to a report that LIV would buy broadcasts from US network Fox Sports, Khosla said LIV did not have “commercial terms reached with any partner”.

“It could be, it could be a share (in revenue), or an ad dollar,” he said in an interview, when asked if LIV would buy a season broadcast before receiving any payments.

“There are so many different ways to build deals…I personally don’t get attached to any of them at this point.”

Khosla referred to Major League Soccer, Major League Soccer in China, and Formula 1 in the United States, which all started with small television deals before they took shape.

The first LIV season is available on YouTube but is not shown on TV although it is offered to broadcasters for free.

But Khosla said backers of LIV, the oil-rich Saudi Public Investment Fund, are playing the long game.

I think we have an investor with a long-term horizon. If the horizon is two years then I’d say OK, we should have a completely different deal structure.

“But if their horizon is more than 10 years, that is a completely different arrangement. You have to prepare it now for five or seven years.”

Khosla was speaking at the Jeddah Invitational, LIV’s first stop in Saudi Arabia and the last singles tournament of the season, which ends with a team event in Miami later this month.

– ‘Aging product’ –
The new project, with seemingly endless funding, has polarized golf and its fans, with many critics slamming it as an attempt to “sport launder” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

It also coincides with a row between the United States and Saudi Arabia over oil after the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cut production despite Washington’s pleas for it to help lower prices.

Undeterred by controversies, LIV is discussing a women’s version – with preliminary approaches to the LPGA and the Women’s European Tour – and is aggressively pushing its team structure.

Under this model, LIV golfers would compete individually and as part of teams of four, which would eventually be sold as franchises with the ability to trade players.

“We have commitments from players for multiple, multiple years. We have a deep commitment from our core investor, which is fantastic,” Khosla said.

“(Golf) is an old product today, it’s been for a long period of time. How can you make it younger? How can you make it faster? How can you make it cooler and more attractive?” he added.

LIV innovations include 54-hole courses without cuts and a limited field of 48. Players can wear shorts – still forbidden in traditional golf – and play music from the stadium’s speakers.

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With hefty financial rewards, including a $200 million login fee for 52-year-old Phil Mickelson, and no less than $4 million for tournament winners, the allure for players is clear.

However, they cannot earn world ranking points on the LIV, which affects their chances of playing the Grand Slam. They are also banned from playing the US PGA Tour, while in Europe a similar suspension is currently before the courts.

Khosla said he is “optimistic” the LIV will eventually be recognized by the Golf World Ranking Council (OWGR), which has been stacked with PGA and European numbers and is currently reviewing the status.

“The feedback we got from OWGR is that they technically think we’re checking the boxes. They’re still working through the internal processes they have to go through,” he said.

“I am optimistic that we will get our points,” Khosla added. “But it would be nice to have it now.”

– © AFP 2022

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