LIV Golf

LIV Golf facing eight-figure dispute over copying PGL format, per report

February 29, 2024

Michael Reaves

LIV Golf is involved in a potential eight-figure legal dispute over allegations it copied its format from the Premier Golf League, according to a report from The Times of London.

The PGL, a theoretical competitor to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, traces its roots back to 2014, with details of the circuit becoming public in 2020 as principals began an attempt to lure the game’s best to participate. The league was headed by Andrew Gardiner, a British attorney and businessman, who pitched his vision to multiple outlets, including to Golf Digest. Gardiner’s vision was a tour with 54-hole tournaments and shotgun starts, with teams of four players simultaneously competing for individual and team prizes. The project was backed initially by Saudi Arabian’s financers.

“The planning is all done, the platform is built, the financial backing is in place,” Gardiner told Golf Digest in 2020. “Now, this will only happen with the support of the players, the sponsors and broadcasters, and the fans.”

However, Saudi Arabia decided to ultimately back its own golf venture, and several executives left the PGL and took similar roles with Performance 54, the group in charge of directing LIV Golf’s operations. LIV Golf launched in the fall of 2021, with its first season commencing in the summer of 2022. Additionally, efforts by the PGL to team up with the European Tour were shot down. One of the last pleas from the PGL was an open letter to PGA Tour players, imploring them for a “call to action” to consider a partnership.

“Your profession is approaching an historic crossroads. The ‘International Series,’ funded and owned by LIV Golf Investments, represents an existential threat, not only to the PGA Tour’s dominance but also its mode,” the letter read. “Change is not only inevitable, it is happening—and no amount of purse rigging, head-burying, ban-threatening, alliance-making or ‘moving-on’ will derail it.” The PGL asserted players could make $20 million each in their proposal, highlighted by $2 million received upfront.

Though the PGL has attempted to continue, nothing of substance has come to fruition. Publicly, Gardiner has been relatively quiet on LIV. ​​“I’m not angry at all,” he once told Today’s Golfer. “We see [LIV] as a testament to us because it is, for all intent and purposes, the same format that we devised.” But according to the Times, the PGL has been engaged in a secret battle with LIV, likely around intellectual property.

So far, there is no filing in courts. That’s because, according to the Times, the PGL has instructed its lawyers to find a resolution to avoid arbitration. For its troubles, the PGL initially was seeking $60 million from the Saudi-backed circuit. The Times story goes on to say that possible settlement could be more in the neighborhood of $12.6 million.

LIV Golf, which is in its third season, is hosting an event in Saudi Arabia this week.