We are in the midst of a global pandemic due to Covid-19. Long-term businesses are going bankrupt, people are losing their jobs and their livelihoods.
And yet… greed in sport is rife.
Just a few weeks ago, we witnessed the rise, and immediate fall, of the European Super League in football. Fans reacted with passion and protests and thankfully it was disbanded within days, as all the clubs withdrew.
But away from football, the Professional Golfers Association have also devised their own Player Impact Programme. This $40 million-dollar pot is to be shared between the top 10 players and is designed to reward golfers who encourage sponsors and news fans into the sport.
Ross-on-Wye golf professional, Zach Galliford, believes the idea is to help TV viewing figures when the big stars such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Bryson Dechambeau aren’t participating in certain competitions.
He says: “I can see how it can be a good idea to encourage pro golfers to move the needle and get more people in to watch and play the game.
“However, if it comes down to being more active on social media, Tiger Woods and the big names are already prominent on those platforms, so they will only be getting more money.”
Zach argues that the only reason the PGA have created this bonus scheme, is to stop the chance of a breakaway golf Super League, rumoured to be backed by Saudi Arabia.
He says: “Only certain golfers would be able to participate. For instance, only the top 30 to 50 golfers could play on this new tour.”
With serious inequalities evident across all sports, and especially in golf, Galliford recalls that the PGA tried to do something similar a few years ago, but on the basis of attracting famous female golfers, those with thousands of Instagram followers, to participate on the tour to try and boost figures. It was unsuccessful.
Young golf prospect Elis Lewis, 22, from Bow Street, Wales, is currently on a golf scholarship in North Carolina and was working at the PGA Wells Fargo tour event at Quail Hollow this week.
Lewis thinks encouraging golfers to interact more on social media and other avenues is, in fact, a good idea.
“It can help grow the game for the younger generation where everything is on social media,” he suggests. “You have to have social media in this day and age as everything is online. With so many youngsters using social media, it can only help promote golf.”
Lewis likes the idea of golf moving on from its perception as an old fashioned sport and supports the notion it move with the times. However, he admits that a lot of the top golfers wouldn’t be interested in the social media angle, as players such as Tiger Woods already have people handling their accounts for them.
“On the other hand,” says Lewis, “you have people like Webb (Simpson). I’m lucky to be able to call him my friend, but he is a very quiet family man, he doesn’t care for social media. These golfers, who are in the top 10, top 20 in the world, who may be relatively unknown to many globally, they’ve already made millions on the PGA tour just by participating so I don’t think they’ll be interested in being different just to gain a bit more money.”
With the Players Impact Programme being strategically deployed to stop a breakout Super League golf tournament, golf superstar Rory McIlroy, speaking to NBC Sports, delivered a scathing attack on the prospect of a breakaway league, calling it a “money grab”, arguing there is no better structure in golf than the current one.
“If you’re in this game to make as much money as possible and that’s what makes you happy then go ahead,” he says. “I’m playing this game to cement my place in history, win major championships, and win the biggest tournaments in the world.”
My take: Jamie Evans weighs in
A breakaway tour would be poor for golf. The PGA platform works, and delivers enough coverage of the best golfers in the world, and changing that for the elite to make even more money would be a misstep. The PGA claims in response to a GolfWeek article, that the scheme will “recognize and reward players who positively move the needle.”
On the Players Impact Programme, it’s clear to see what the PGA are trying to do to grow the sport, but unless someone drastically changes their personality or modifies their game immensely to impress people, then the top 10 golfers in the world will continue to reap the rewards of this scheme, leaving the rest of them short.
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