By Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A draft contract to play for Saudi-funded LIV Golf includes clauses that require players be available to recruit other players to the league and to get permission before granting exclusive interviews, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The Journal said it reviewed a draft contract that LIV Golf has offered players, noting it was unclear if terms in the draft are in all contracts or can be negotiated.
Among other provisions in the draft contract was approval for most of the logos they wear and branded products they use at events.
Meanwhile, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman sent a letter to players and agents outlining why the league should get Official World Golf Ranking points.
“This is not only in the best interests of LIV Golf, but importantly also necessary for the integrity, accuracy and fairness of the rankings to be upheld,” Norman wrote.
Noting the application was filed July 6, and that new tours have to show it has complied with OWGR guidelines for one year, he is urging the OWGR to “gain comfort” with LIV Golf’s status. Norman said neither LIV Golf nor the Asian Tour has heard from the ranking officials.
What do golfers agree to when they sign on with LIV Golf? The Wall Street Journal reviewed one of the contracts—and it contained some surprising terms https://t.co/mtZ46ZHZhV
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 18, 2022
The draft contract reviewed by the Journal did not include any signing bonuses, though the newspaper said one detail was a $1 million bonus for winning a major championship.
“LIV Golf, as a start-up, is proud to offer our golfers competitive contracts,” a LIV spokesman said in a statement to the Journal. “Our future is bright and we continue to be excited by the player and fan response.”
The rival league, run by Norman and backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, has played three events this year. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 2-4 outside Boston.
LIV Golf already has attracted 10 players among the top 50 in the world ranking, with Dustin Johnson the highest at No. 21. The PGA Tour has suspended them — some players resigned — upon playing an event for not having a conflicting event release.
Last week, a federal judge in California denied the request from three LIV Golf players who sought a temporary restraining order to complete in the tour’s lucrative postseason.
U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman had copies of the LIV contracts signed by Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones. Only outside attorneys and the judge — not PGA Tour attorneys — were allowed to see them, and the PGA Tour’s outside attorney had to be careful in his arguments not to reveal any financials.
But at one point in the hearing, when the topic was conflicting events and media rights releases, Freeman remarked about LIV Golf, “But from what I understand of these contracts, these are — these contracts lock up these players in ways that the PGA Tour never imagined. They are so restrictive.”
The attorney for LIV Golf replied, “I think that’s unfair, your honor.”
The Journal said apparel requirements were noted “multiple times” in the draft contract it reviewed and that players are to only wear appropriate “Team Apparel” during any LIV activity or “any other covered golf activity.”
One component of LIV Golf Invitational events are 12 four-man teams that complete for $5 million, in addition to the $20 million prize fund for individual scores.
“The Player agrees to wear LIV Golf branding (or other branding supplied by the League Operator) at each Tournament and each other golf tournament you participate in anywhere in the world,” it states.
The Journal cited a person familiar with LIV thinking as saying that clause was geared toward next year when the 12 teams will be set for the year.
It cited another provision that required players to agree to refrain from “providing exclusive interviews or commentaries” in relation to any event or league activity without approval.
The draft contract also said players agree to “where requested, assist the League Operator in seeking to persuade players to enter into multiyear player participation agreements with the League Operator.”
The newspaper said the draft contract indicates players broadly sign away their media rights from LIV events, similar to PGA Tour regulations.
It also says LIV golfers can play anywhere in the world provided it isn’t the same week as a LIV Golf event. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland missed the Irish Open this year because it was the same week as LIV Golf Invitational-Portland.
On the PGA Tour, players typically are granted three conflicting event releases provided they fulfill their obligations to play 15 times a season on the PGA Tour.
Norman’s letter on the world ranking argued the second LIV event in Portland had a stronger field based on OWGR’s formula than the PGA Tour (John Deere Classic), and that two events had stronger fields than three European tour events that week.
“Although there is no definitive timeframe for OWGR to respond, you may be assured that we will continue to do all that we can to advocate for a favorable response and provide clarity for each of you as soon as possible in light of the importance of OWGR not only for your eligibility into the majors, but also their importance to many of your personal endorsements and commercial partnerships,” he said.