With arbitration panel hearing ending today, DP World Tour hasn’t considered losing

Bernie McGuire

CEO of the DP World Tour Keith Pelley (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Bernie McGuire

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By Bernie McGuire in Oman.

Today Friday 10th of February 2023 is the final day of a five-day arbitration panel hearing in London that will decide whether the European Tour was right to suspend LIV golfers from competing on the Tour.

A three-man panel headed by retired High Court Judge, His Honour Judge Phillip Sycamore, CBE and two Kings Council (KC) members have been hearing both sides to the argument within the walls of the Sport Resolution Centre in London.

At the outset, 16 LIV Golf players signed the lawsuit against the actions of the European Tour in being suspended from DP World Tour competition by joining LIV Golf but with a court last year offering a stay of their suspension that allowed them to continue competing on the DP World Tour until the outcome of this week’s arbitration hearing.

We knew ahead of this hearing three of the original appellants in Sergio Garcia, Charles Schwartzel and Branden Grace had withdrawn their appeal.

It left 13 others – Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui, Justin Harding, Lee Westwood, Sam Horsfield, Richard Bland, Sean Norris, Laurie Canter, Wade Ormsby, Patrick Reed, Bernd Wiesberger, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer – who are intent in having the suspension formally overturned.

A Tour official stressed ahead of this week’s hearing that it is not a court case taking place in London and also that there was to be no public access across the five days, no public gallery nor media access or news of the hearing being relayed to the media.

It’s why there has been no mention of any kind from the hearing anywhere.

As well, the outcome of the hearing may also not become public for days, weeks or maybe months and will be done so via the Sports Resolution website – https://www.sportresolutions.com/

Whatever the outcome and whether or not the European Tour will appeal if they lose or, in contrast, will the LIV players appeal if their request to play on the DP World Tour is squashed or can those 13 players still compete on the DP World if they lose and wish to lodge an appeal against the arbitration panel’s ruling, we simply don’t know those answers.

“The five-day hearing centred on the European Tour’s conflicting event regulations and the Tour’s ability to enforce it,” said the European Tour’s Communications Director, Scott Crockett ahead of the recent Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

“It’s as straightforward as that and in that sense the hearing is very narrow and has a very specific parameter.

“For additional clarity the issues are not the same with regards the litigation case involving the PGA Tour and LIV taking place in America. Not least the difference is the difference in the interpretation of the law in America and the UK.

“So, this hearing has not been about suspending members or banning them from this or banning from that. No, it’s simply to regulate on this narrow regulation point.”

European Tour CEO Keith Pelley has been representing the Tour as a witness at the London hearing while the 13 LIV players have been represented by lawyers.

Pelley had been asked also at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic whether any decision would be binding arbitration but what would be the scenario if the European Tour were to lose the case; however such an outcome is something the Tour seems not to have contemplated.

“It’s an important moment for our Tour and for our members at all different levels,” said Pelley.

“I think there are so many changes happening right now, and there are so many different standout moments. We’ve seen unprecedented change last year and there will be more change this year but it’s impossible to predict what will happen.”

And when Pelley was quizzed again if the LIV players who took the Tour to arbitration lose the case will they be banned indefinitely from the Tour he responded saying: “We will do what we have said all along and that is we will go through the actual hearing and whatever the results are, we will act accordingly and make our decisions at that point.

“So, I am not going to comment on chances or whether we are going to win or whether we are going to lose the case.

“We just haven’t spent any time being concerned about the result. We have done everything we could to protect the members of the Tour and that is what we are focussed no right now.

“I believe regardless of the decision that our strategic alliance with the PGA Tour and our current place inside golf’s ecosystem we’re in a strong position.”

So, why has no thought been given if you should lose the arbitration hearing?

“We’ve had discussions but at the same time that has not been our primary focus”, said Pelley.

“When you’re defending claims versus 13 players it’s just not our primary focus.”

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