The Europe-based DP World Tour has won its legal battle against a group of rebel golfers who committed “serious breaches” of its code of behaviour by playing in LIV Golf events without permission.
England’s Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were among 12 players appealing against punishments the tour wanted to impose on those who took in the inaugural LIV event near London last year.
It remains to be seen whether they will appeal against the verdict or give up their membership of the DP World Tour — a move that would end their involvement in the Ryder Cup.
The case arose when players requested releases to play in the LIV Golf event at the Centurion Club in June last year.
Those requests were denied but the players competed regardless and were fined £100,000 ($125,000) and suspended from the Scottish Open and two other events.
Initially, Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding appealed against the decision and the punishments were stayed, pending an appeal, allowing the players to compete in DP World Tour events.
The number of appellants then grew to 16, but Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Otaegui withdrew from the case, which was heard behind closed doors by Sports Resolutions UK in February.
– ‘Serious breaches’ –
Announcing its decision on Thursday, the arbitration panel concluded the players had committed “serious breaches of the code of behavior of the DPWT regulations” by playing in LIV’s London and Portland events, despite their release requests having been refused.
Their appeals have been dismissed and the players ordered to pay the £100,000 fines.
DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley told reporters that the verdict had backed his organization’s right to impose their own rules and regulations.
“I’ve said all along, I don’t begrudge any of them for going at any time,” he said. “But you can’t break rules and regulations that are set up by the members for the members, that they have signed up to, with no consequences. It just doesn’t make logical sense.
“I’m not saying that the players can’t play. This isn’t about banning the players. This is about administering our rules and regulations as set out by our members.”
Pelley said it remained to be seen if any further sanctions would be applied to players for their subsequent actions or future moves.
“We now have to determine what those consequences are going to be going forward, and this is really up to the individual players,” Pelley said.
“We have not said that we are banning them. We are simply saying that there will be consequences if you breach our rules and regulations.”
If the LIV players do attempt to maintain their DP World Tour membership while competing in LIV, Pelley said they would have to abide by the process.
“Every conflicting tournament they have to request a release, and then we look at that as an individual case, look at it in a number of different ways through our regulations and then determine whether they are going to release that player or not,” he said.
Speaking at his pre-Masters press conference at Augusta National earlier this week, world number two Rory McIlroy said a legal victory for the DP tour would change the “dynamic of everything a bit.”
McIlroy has been at the forefront of the US-based PGA Tour’s efforts to fight back against the LIV rebels, playing a central role in the creation of the tour’s new formats and enhanced purses.
Players have been keen to talk down any suggestion of the conflict souring this week’s Masters and McIlroy echoed that sentiment, saying he was not surprised that the atmosphere between the two camps was amicable.
Saudi-backed LIV Golf began last year with several big-name players jumping to the upstart circuit for record $25 million purses and 54-hole events despite concerns over human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.
The established PGA Tour banned LIV players from its events and a legal fight is set for a 2024 trial, but major tournaments have allowed LIV players who qualify to compete.
A total of 18 LIV golfers are in action at the Masters, which began on Thursday.
Source : Yahoo Sports