CONFIRMED: End of the road for Ryder Cup greats after LIV Golf sanctions upheld

It's official. A sports arbitration panel has upheld the DP World Tour's sanctions against the LIV Golf players.

Ben Smith's picture
Thu, 6 Apr 2023
CONFIRMED: End of the road for Ryder Cup greats after LIV Golf sanctions upheld

The Ryder Cup careers of European stars Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood appear to be over after it was officially confirmed Sports Resolutions upheld the fines and suspensions handed out to the LIV Golf League players. 

Last June marked a sensational time in the men's game with the launch of the LIV Golf Invitational Series at Centurion Club just outside of London. 

A number of DP World Tour players - including Ryder Cup heroes Poulter, Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell - asked for tournament releases to participate in the first mega-money series tournament. 

LIV is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. The wealth fund has already invested more than $2bn into the golf league.  

The tournament releases were swiftly denied and players were handed £100,000 fines and banned from three co-sanctioned PGA Tour events. 

That decision was 'stayed' pending a private, sports arbitration hearing in London. 

On 6 April - the first day of the 2023 Masters - the panel's ruling was made official. 

You can read the full document by clicking here

But the arbitrator determined:

  • DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley "acted entirely reasonably in refusing releases"
  • The relevant regulations are lawful and enforceable
  • The sanctioned members "committed serious breaches of the Code of Behaviour of the DP World Tour Regulations by playing in [LIV Golf] events despite their release requests having been refused". 
  • All of the players' challenged therefore failed, their appeals dismissed in their entirety, and the £100,000 fines originally imposed must now be paid within 30 days

A witness statement from Pelley in the hearing quoted the chief executive of the European-based tour as saying:

"I want to explain why we cannot simply stand back and let our members play LIV Golf events. First, LIV Golf is our competitor. When we grant releases for players to compete, it lends credibility to their format and their product. Conversely, that causes harm to our product." 

The original appeal was brought by Poulter, Westwood, Garcia, Adrian Otageui, Justin Harding, Sam Horsfield, Richard Bland, Shaun Norris, Laurie Canter, Wade Ormsby, Patrick Reed, Bernd Wiesberger, Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Martin Kaymer. 

Otageui, Garcia, Schwartzel and Grace were the players to withdraw their appeals. 

The decision will have a profound impact on the landscape of men's professional golf. 

LIV Golf have not officially responded to the judgment. 

In a statement, Pelley said: 

"We welcome today's decision by Sport Resolutions which upholds our regulations and our ability to administer them.
"We are delighted that the panel recognised we have a responsibility to our full membership to do this and also determined that the process we followed was fair and proportionate.
"In deciding the level of these sanctions last June, we were simply administering the regulations which were created by our members and which each of them signed up to.
"It is, of course, regrettable that resources, both financial and staffing, which could have been otherwise deployed across our organisation, have been impacted by this lengthy arbitration process.
"However, with the clarity provided by today's decision, we look forward to continuing to focus on our 2023 global schedule, whilst also continuing to plan for 2024 with the valued support of our many partners and stakeholders.
"We will now carefully consider the details of today's decision with our board, our tournament committee and our legal advisors and take the appropriate action in due course."

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