European Tour alliance with PGA Tour "categorically not a merger"

By Brian Keogh  

Keith Pelley. Photo by Golffile

European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley angrily denied its new “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour is the first step towards a merger with its megabucks US counterpart.

With the PGA Tour acquiring a minority stake in media production company European Tour Productions, the world’s leading tours have become partners rather than rivals with the advent of co-sanctioned events on European soil now a real possibility.

The deal means that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan takes a seat on the European Tour Board.

But Pelley vehemently denied it was tantamount to a first step towards a merger, explaining that the deal came about after it turned down “a very compelling offer” by the private equity group fronting the breakaway Premier Golf League, Raine Capital, “to take the European Tour to another level but in a different direction.”

He added: “Ultimately, we felt partnering with the PGA Tour was the best option for our members and for global golf, a decision that was made unanimously by the board of directors.”

The Canadian confirmed that European events co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour are part of the long-term strategy, raising the possibility of seeing the top Americans play on Irish soil.

Whether that could mean a new boost for the Irish Open or the creation of a new event at an iconic venue such as 2027 Ryder Cup venue Adare Manor, remains to be seen.

As for a merger with the PGA Tour, he said: “We are categorically not in financial difficulties. That is simply wrong. We are in robust financial health with a very strong balance sheet, strongest ever and a strong support of networks of partners.”

He added: “If this was a merger or a pathway to a merger, it would have to have significant benefits for our members. Because in order for a merger to ever happen, it would need 75 per cent of the membership vote and consensus. This is day one of a partnership, and we really want to build this partnership and really want to grow this relationship. But categorically not, this is not a merger.”

After being compelled to work closer together due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a threat from the proposed Premier Golf League, the two organisations felt greater co-operation on scheduling could help boost their weaker events and give them the chance to better exploit “strategic commercial opportunities,” including global media rights.

Earlier this year, the PGA Tour announced a new, nine-year media rights deal believed to be worth $7 billion from 2022 as well as a 12-year deal with Discovery, which is also a rights holder for the European Tour.

Insisting a merger was “miles away, Pelley said: “This is critical is terms of keeping our respective identities. And that’s what we have done here. They have taken an investment in the European Tour Productions unit, which is our production arm that produces and distributes our content globally.

“The fact that it is a monetary investment is critical because they are incentified now to grow our business and we are incentified to work for the success of the PGA Tour.”

Meanwhile, Poland’s Adrian Meronk added a 66 to his opening 65 to lead the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Championship by three shots in 13-under from Dane Joachim B Hansen, who shot a best of the day 64, and England's Richard Bland.

Cormac Sharvin shot a second successive 72 and will make the level par cut on the mark when the second round is completed today but an out of sorts Jonathan Caldwell finished on 12-over after a 77.

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