A recent New York Times report on confidential documents relating to a LIV Golf blueprint devised by a consultancy firm shed some intriguing light on the Saudi Arabian quest to build a profitable, robust breakaway league.
To the casual observer, the LIV business model would appear about as sustainable as the strategic thinking behind an inflatable dartboard.
Let’s face it, anyone offering Pat Perez $10 million to sign up must be off their gold-plated trolley. The sifting of said documents led to the conclusion by the New York Times that the “benchmarks for success bordered on the fantastical.”
In order to be successful, a new league would need to sign “each of the world’s top 12 golfers, attract sponsors to an unproven product and land television deals for a sport with a declining viewership all without significant retaliation from the PGA Tour it would be plundering.”
While LIV and its bottomless pit of cash has attracted a number of marquee names – the snaring of Open champion Cameron Smith was a major coup – it’s quite clear that the series falls short on all the criteria laid out above despite its rapid ascent to prominence in 2022.
Even folk with scant knowledge of this whole saga could’ve told you that in order for such a bold rebellion to have a chance of long-term legitimacy, it would’ve needed the two biggest draws in golf – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – to jump on the gravy train.
That duo, of course, declared from the outset that it wouldn’t touch LIV with the entire barge let alone the bargepole. Even though Woods was reportedly offered around $800 million to join, the multiple major champion was not for deserting and, along with McIlroy, has become one of the most vigorous anti-LIV voices.
Interestingly, the consultancy firm’s plan — named ‘Project Wedge’ — also outlined possible eventualities for the LIV Golf series. In its most successful prediction, LIV would have projected revenue of at least $1.4 billion a year in 2028. On the other side of the ball marker, the doomsday scenario is that it could be facing losses of $355 million in the same year.
It’s all what-ifs and maybes, of course, and for the time being, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund will continue to plow frightening sums into a crusade that has yet to convince that it is competitively or commercially valid. The man and woman down at the local golf club will probably be aware that the LIV Series exists but that may just be down to the sheer level of well-documented disruption it has caused rather than the product it is promoting and producing on the course.
Can average fans recount any of the actual golfing stories from the various LIV events this season? I bet you didn’t expect to be suddenly put on the spot like that, eh?
I’ll bet there’s a good chance you couldn’t regale me with a defining golf tale from the LIV campaign beyond the relentless speculation surrounding players defecting from the established tours.
LIV remains a story because of the tumult it has created but that needs to change if it is to be successful. There has been a novelty factor too but if the golf — the core product — generates minimal interest then the whole thing risks slithering into the irrelevant realms of an expensive, indulgent folly.