LIV CEO and commissioner Greg Norman watches play on the third hole during the final round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
Brian Spurlock | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman will be visiting Capitol Hill this week to meet with members of Congress, as the Saudi-backed league tangles with the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour has been lobbying against LIV since 2021. LIV players have filed an antitrust suit against the PGA Tour. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has been probing the PGA Tour’s possible anticompetitive behavior since July.
“LIV Golf is coming to the Hill this week to meet with lawmakers from both parties,” LIV’s chief spokesperson, Jonathan Grella, told CNBC. “Given the PGA Tour’s attempts to stifle our progress in reimagining the game, we think it’s imperative to educate members on LIV’s business model and counter the Tour’s anti-competitive efforts.”
Norman is slated to meet with several lawmakers. Reps. Nancy Mace, R-N.C., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., lead the informal congressional golf caucus.
Representatives for the PGA Tour declined to comment on the visit. Representatives for Mace and Panetta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The LIV Golf league was founded as a competitor to the PGA Tour and is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. LIV has already poached major golfers such as Phil Mickelson from the PGA Tour, and Norman himself is a former tour star. The tour, in turn, has barred LIV-affiliated players from participating in its events.
LIV Golf has consistently called out the PGA Tour’s actions as anti-competitive. The upstart league said that the PGA’s suspension of LIV players was an “effort to stifle competition.”
From the other side, critics have called out the league’s associations with the Saudi government, seeing it as an attempt at “sportswashing” to improve the nation’s image. Critics have also noted that the Saudi government’s incredible wealth makes any idea of true competition a moot point. LIV has another powerful supporter in former President Donald Trump, whose Bedminster, New Jersey, country club hosted a league event over the summer. His Doral course in Miami will hold another LIV event at the end of October.
Since 2021, the PGA Tour has paid $360,000 to the firm DLA Piper to lobby lawmakers on multiple topics including “Saudi Golf League proposals.” Several lawmakers – including Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. – have expressed concern about LIV.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has taken a hard line against LIV.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It’s an irrational threat, one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game,” Monahan told reporters earlier this year.
LIV Golf has also been seeking a media deal, as the league has been self-broadcasting its premiere season on its website and on YouTube. Recent reports said Apple and Amazon passed on an a coverage deal. The league’s Chief Media Officer Will Staeger told CNBC that he is “highly optimistic” it will have a partnership for its 2023 season. The PGA Tour has deals with CBS, ESPN and NBC.
Disclosure: NBC and CNBC share the same parent company, NBCUniversal.
(With inputs from CNBC)