The non-solicitation clause in the agreement stated that the PIF, the PGA Tour and European tour would no longer “solicit or recruit any players who are members of the other tours or organizations to become members of their respective organizations”
Last Updated: 14/07/23 7:58am
The PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund have responded to a Justice Department inquiry by dropping a clause in their agreement that would have prohibited the poaching of players.
The Justice Department’s antitrust review began last summer and expanded when the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s PIF agreed to a partnership.
The non-solicitation clause was part of the framework agreement announced June 6 and signed by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF.
The agreement, still being negotiated and requiring PGA Tour board approval, is for the parties to form a for-profit company that would pool commercial businesses and rights. During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, PGA Tour chief operating officer Ron Price said PIF would contribute at least $1bn.
Key to the agreement was dropping all antitrust litigation, which a federal judge signed off on last month. Below that section was the non-solicitation clause that said PIF, the PGA Tour and European tour would no longer “solicit or recruit any players who are members of the other tours or organizations to become members of their respective organizations.”
The clause was effective May 30, when the agreement was signed.
Following the removal of the clause, the PGA Tour told Sky Sports: “The Framework Agreement sets the stage for an exciting future for professional golf that re-establishes competition at the highest levels of the sport and creates the biggest stage for everyone – players, sponsors, and fans.
“Based on discussions with staff at the Department of Justice, we chose to remove specific language from the Framework Agreement.
“While we believe the language is lawful, we also consider it unnecessary in the spirit of cooperation and because all parties are negotiating in good faith.”
The Times reported antitrust experts warned the clause could violate federal law if it threatened the integrity of the labour market and promised to stifle competition for players, who are independent.
The agreement sets a December 31 deadline for finalizing the deal, though both sides can agree to an extension and with LIV Golf having a set 48-man roster for this season, alternates are available for injury, it was unlikely any player would have left for LIV until the 2024 season.
McIlroy: I would rather retire than join LIV
Rory McIlroy has made it abundantly clear how he felt about short-lived proposals that he and Tiger Woods could own LIV Golf teams and play in at least 10 events a season.
Before the agreement was reached between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF, PCP Capital Partners gave a presentation to two PGA Tour officials entitled “The Best of Both Worlds” that featured the McIlroy and Woods proposal as part of a lengthy wish-list which included PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan becoming a member of the R&A and Augusta National.
Neither had any chance of success even if McIlroy – who said he still “hated” LIV when the framework agreement was announced – has now taken a step back from his role as the biggest advocate of the PGA Tour.
“If LIV Golf was the last place to play golf on earth I would retire. That’s how I feel about it,” McIlroy said after an opening 64 in the Genesis Scottish Open, which is live on Sky Sports.
“There’s quite a bit of apathy towards everything at the moment.
“There wasn’t a lot of new information there for me [in the Senate hearing], there maybe was for other people, but as I said, I’ve almost been too close to it over the last year and a bit so it’s nice to be able to try to distance myself a bit from it.
“The thing that I’ve realised is, no matter what I do or say or try to show leadership, I’m going to be just fine.
“I’ve tried to step up for maybe the guys that didn’t have a voice early on, but I think with everything that’s transpired over the last few weeks the players are going to find themselves more and more at the table to try to get whatever that is they want out of it.
“Again, as long as I get to play the golf that I’ve known over the last 15 years of my career, I’ll be happy.”
Watch The Scottish Open between July 13-16 ahead of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool from July 20-23, both live on Sky Sports.
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