FOX'S FORAY INTO GOLF SEEN AS MAJOR THREAT TO PGA TOUR
"Ready or not, sports gets another golf tour today with a
news conference at Sherwood Country Club [in Thousand Oaks, CA]
to announce a new golf venture that has generated great
controversy before its birth." The World Tour is a joint venture
of Fox Television and Executive Sports, a FL-based event
management firm that puts on tournaments on the PGA, Senior PGA
and LPGA tours, and Greg Norman. News of the World Tour "already
has been a source of deep concern" for PGA Tour Commissioner Tim
Finchem, particularly since it arrives at a time when the FTC is
investigating the PGA Tour for possible "unfair methods of
competition" (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 11/17). "If enough
players back the concept, the ramifications would be vast.
Regular PGA Tour events would, in essence, be devalued and
tournament sponsors would have less hope of landing marquee
players, something that would probably force them to re-evaluate
their investment in the tour" (Larry Dorman, N.Y. TIMES, 11/17).
WHAT'S FOX UP TO? Jon Mandel, Senior VP of Grey
Advertising, compares golf to the NHL, which draws a younger
demographic, and calls golf "antithetical to Fox's brand
identity." But Michael Hiestand lists three possible reasons why
Fox Chair Rupert Murdoch would want to get involved with golf:
1) "The old strategy of buying major sports events to buoy a
network"; 2) The potential global audiences and sponsorship
opportunities; and, 3) The "winning TV formula" of "chuck the
chaff, stick to the stars" (USA TODAY, 11/17). "Only the best,
most popular, most marketable players are targeted for the Fox
venture" (Bob Green, AP/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/17). The
tournaments, which could be carried on Fox TV, fX cable, and
Murdoch's cable systems in Australia, Europe, Asia and South
America, will attract "sponsors that market products worldwide"
(Mark Asher, WASHINGTON POST, 11/17).
PLAYER REAX: Norman and representatives of Fox and
Executive Sports met yesterday with about 20 players who were in
CA to participate in Norman's Franklin Funds Shark Shootout.
Brad Faxon said the purpose of the meeting was to "get a good
feel of what the players are thinking so that it's done the right
way and we don't jeopardize our standing with the U.S. tour."
Arnold Palmer: "I've said for years that there was going to be a
world tour. I don't know what approach Greg is taking, but they
need to put it together very, very carefully, with the blessings
of the PGA Tour, the European Tour and all the golf entities. I
would hate to see anything interfere with the PGA Tour. It's
been the lifeblood of golf and should continue to be the showcase
of professional golf" (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 11/17). The
World Tour would stage 8-10 events with a limited field of 20-30
golfers, underwritten by $25M from Fox. Hale Irwin: "There are
many questions left to be answered. For example: Who are the
sponsors other than Fox?" (USA TODAY, 11/17).
ALL FOR ONE: Following Finchem's statement that the PGA
Tour would fight the new tour, the American Golf Sponsors also
came out in opposition. In a statement released yesterday, the
group -- made up of tournament and title sponsors and local
communities -- called the World Tour "antithetical to the spirit
of competition that is provided in our full-field events"
(American Golf Sponsors).