Tuesday October 3, 2023

LIV Golf Alleges PGA and European Tours Formed ‘Unlawful Conspiracy’

  • LIV Golf lawyers make a series of new claims in an effort to subpoena a European Tour official.
  • European Tour responds that LIV Golf filing 'unfounded and inflammatory allegations.'
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Attorneys for LIV Golf claim the PGA Tour and European Tour formed an “unlawful conspiracy” aimed to thwart the upstart golf series, according to a federal court filing obtained by Front Office Sports. 

The allegations appeared in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida — where the PGA Tour is based — in a Tuesday filing by LIV Golf as it seeks to subpoena European Tour officials, a maneuver that aims to bolster the Saudi-backed tour’s antitrust lawsuit in a California federal court. 

The European Tour said LIV Golf “asserts numerous mischaracterizations of fact and misapplications of law” in a response filed on Thursday that seeks to quash the subpoena. 

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LIV Golf makes several allegations surrounding European Tour CEO Keith Pelley’s visit to the PGA Tour’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach to meet with PGA Tour CEO Jay Monahan and others in March 2021 — six months before Greg Norman was named CEO of LIV Golf as the series began to take shape. 

  • At the meeting, the PGA and Europeans tours “worked together to destroy competition from LIV” by “conspiring to suspend LIV players from the ET and PGAT.”
  • The two tours also worked to withhold World Golf Ranking points — key for tournament exemptions — for LIV participants and otherwise “denying LIV players access to the Majors.”  
  • At the meeting, the tours conspired “to preclude LIV’s access to vendors, sponsors, and broadcasters.”

“This conspiracy to thwart competition injured competition in Florida, the U.S., and globally,” LIV Golf’s legal team wrote in the filing. “In furtherance of that unlawful agreement, ET executives have regularly visited this district to conduct business and have regularly directed electronic communications to and from this District. 

“Indeed, they have publicly announced a plan to continue those conspiratorial meetings in this district in less than two weeks’ time.”

LIV is seeking to depose a European Tour representative in January, according to a previous filing.

Some of the allegations had been made previously in the lawsuit filed by Phil Mickelson and other LIV participants this summer. Most of the players have since withdrawn from the case, and LIV Golf entered as the main plaintiff. 

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The antitrust trial is scheduled to start in January 2024. 

This week’s filing in Florida — like the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California — references exhibits that are under seal. But some of the allegations appear to be made from discovery LIV Golf has received in the California case. 

In its response, the European Tour’s Thursday filing argued that LIV can’t establish a legal standard to compel a deposition of its executives based in the United Kingdom. 

“LIV has made numerous unfounded and inflammatory allegations against [the] European Tour,” the attorneys for the European Tour wrote. “Although non-party European Tour is not required to answer such baseless allegations in the context of a motion to quash.”

The PGA Tour has attempted to use the federal court system to compel somebody outside the U.S. as part of the California lawsuit as well. 

Lawyers working on behalf of the PGA Tour filed a petition in a New York federal court in October seeking to depose Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan.

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