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The Loop

European Tour's Dubai predicament

November 26, 2009

Two weeks before the European Tour's 2010 season commences (yes, 2010 begins in 2009, according to the European Tour, which features the shortest off-season in sports), it has yet to release its full schedule, hinting strongly at trouble with a prominent sponsor.

Peter Dixon of the Times reported that a rumor suggests that the European Open might become a victim of the economy. Its sponsor is Nakheel, Dixon noted, which also foots the bill for the Race to Dubai. When George O'Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour, was asked last week whether the Race to Dubai would fulfill its five-year commitment, offered only that he was "very confident."

Dixon wrote: "There was a marked silence from Nakheel [at the Dubai World Championship last week). Conspicuous by their absence were the glitzy press conferences, media functions and reach-for-the-sky announcements that have been associated with the Race to Dubai from day one. I wonder why?"

Lawrence Donegan, writing in the Guardian, has an answer. "Does this mean the first Dubai World Championship was also the last? Given the news of Nakheel's financial problems, the only plausible answer is yes."

Donegan based his conclusion on the news that the state-controlled Dubai World has $59 billion in liabilities and "is seeking to delay debt payments, sending contracts to protect the emirate against default surging," according to Bloomberg. Nakheel is Dubai World's property unit and has "$3.52 billion of Islamic bonds due Dec. 14," Bloomberg reported.

-- John Strege