Calendar and media rights collaboration as PGA and European Tours pair up
By Jonathan Rest
A much-mooted merger between golf's PGA Tour and European Tour to create a 'World Tour' took a significant step forward today after the two entities unveiled a strategic alliance with media rights and calendar collaboration at its core.
A key component of the deal involves the PGA Tour taking a minority stake in European Tour Productions, which produces and distributes the tour's content internationally.
ETP was a joint venture between the European Tour and the IMG agency, but has been 100-per-cent owned by the tour since 2017. ETP has continued to work alongside IMG Media in producing and distributing coverage of the European Tour, the Ryder Cup and the British Open, the major.
In today's joint announcement, the Florida-based PGA Tour and Surrey-headquartered European Tour described the move as "a significant new era for global golf."
Details of the alliance are rather sparse at this stage, but the tours said they will work together on strategic commercial opportunities including collaborating on global media rights in certain territories.
There are already obvious synergies given US media giant Discovery’s GolfTV, which launched at the start of 2019 on the back of a 12-year, $2-billion international deal (excluding USA) with the PGA Tour, including the distribution of multi-platform rights, also shows the European Tour in various markets.
The two tours will also work in partnership on global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for the respective memberships.
Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, who will get a seat on the European Tour board, said today: “We are thrilled to announce this further strengthening of our partnership with the European Tour, and we look forward to working together for the benefit of the men’s professional game and for golf fans around the world.”
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, added: “This partnership is an historic moment for the game of golf and is a fantastic opportunity for both the European Tour and the PGA Tour to explore ways to come together at the very pinnacle of our sport and work in unison for the benefit of the men’s professional game.
“Today’s announcement is the formalisation of a closer working relationship between the Tours in recent years. It was one which was crystalised earlier this year when both Jay and I were part of the working group containing representatives of the four Majors and the LPGA, a group which helped shape the remainder of the golfing calendar for 2020 during unprecedented times.
“We shared the challenges of working through a year neither of us could have ever imagined and we found definite synergies in many areas of our respective Tours. That gave us the impetus to move forward together and arrive at this momentous announcement we are making today.”
Talk of a merger, or even a takeover by the PGA Tour of the European Tour, has been ongoing for a few years, particularly with the European Tour facing a constant challenge to convince players from that side of the Atlantic to commit to its tournaments given the large prize money on offer stateside.
Since taking the European Tour reins in September 2015, Pelley has fought hard to stem the migration of the continent's top players to the PGA Tour, overseeing the launch of the Rolex Series, eight existing tournaments branded under one umbrella, each with a minimum prize pot of $7 million.
Earlier this year, Monahan and Pelley both spoke out against the breakaway Premier Golf League, a planned lucrative new tour that is looking to recruit top professionals from the PGA Tour and European Tour ahead of a planned launch in 2022 when it envisages staging 18 mandatory events of 54 holes, with individual and team standings.News of the strategic alliance comes exactly a year on from the Ladies European Tour forming a joint venture partnership with its more powerful US counterpart, the LPGA, to help drive the growth of the women’s professional game in Europe.