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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

European Tour for Sale?

I've included a list of reference articles at the end of this post, for those of you interested in getting the whole story -- such as we know it.

You probably heard the rumors Tuesday that the PGA Tour was in the market for some new property... Europe. The UK's Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph both reported that the Tour was making a bid to purchase the European Tour -- reports that Tim Finchem bluntly denied:
"Certain news reports today have indicated that the PGA TOUR has made an offer to acquire the European Tour. Those reports are inaccurate."
However, Finchem's statement (I've been searching for the complete text but haven't found it yet) certainly seems to have left the possibility of a future merger open:
"However, as I have stated publicly on several occasions, the integration of professional golf can create additional value for our players, sponsors and fans.
"Such integration has been ongoing since 1994, with the founding of the International Federation of PGA Tours, and has led to the establishment of the World Golf Championships in 1999 as well as the World Cup as a Federation-sanctioned event.
"More recently, all the major golf bodies around the world worked together to bring golf back to the Olympic Games."
Finchem said talks among the various tours within the federation would continue "as we explore additional collaborative efforts for the presentation of our game."
"To the extent any of those efforts prove feasible, additional information will be provided at that time."
That sounds a bit vague to me. At the very least, it sounds like they haven't ruled a merger out.

Golf Channel mentioned European Tour members who were unsatisfied with the current business perspective of the ET. The articles I checked indicate that this came primarily from Paul Casey, who is on the ET's Tournament Players Committee. Casey says it took three months just to appoint a global search firm to find a new chairman after the old one retired. Quote, "Why on earth would that simple step take three months?”

Given the PGA Tour's recent purchase of the Canadian Tour, it's clear that they aren't against acquiring other tours. But buying the ET is another thing entirely, don't you think? Other than getting all the revenue from the Ryder Cup, I don't see how taking on the ET's current problems benefits them in any way; the ET is a huge organization, not a satellite tour. Their financial problems aren't going to be solved by a simple infusion of money. And the various articles suggest that there might be a popular backlash against the PGA Tour if it did take over the ET, something which wouldn't improve the tour's value at all.

The problem here, as Casey suggests, appears to be a problem of vision within the ET itself. And I'm uncertain that the necessarily US-centric viewpoint of the PGA Tour holds the solution to that lack of vision. The discrepancy in purses between the two tours -- which is apparently a large part of the rationale behind the reports -- is a matter of perceived value by sponsors. Just adding a PGA Tour logo to the events is unlikely to change that perception.

Let's be honest about this: We do things differently here in America. That's something we Yanks take great pride in (and rightly so, I might add) but that doesn't mean our way of doing business works as well everywhere else in the world. If there's one thing the PGA Tour might be able to offer the ET, it's the determination to be true to who they are.

The ET doesn't need a new owner. It simply needs a clearer vision of what European golf should be going forward, and leaders who are willing to see that vision through.

I took some of my information from this FoxSports article by Adam Schupak, this ESPN article by Bob Harig, this Google posting of a AFP report and this GolfTalkCentral post by Rex Hoggard.

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