LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman visits Capitol Hill as Saudi-backed league battles PGA Tour

LIV CEO and commissioner Greg Norman watches the match on the third hole of the final round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.

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LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman will visit Capitol Hill this week to meet with members of Congress, as the Saudi-backed tournament is entangled in the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour has been lobbying against LIV since 2021. LIV players have applied an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Meanwhile, The Department of Justice investigated possible anticompetitive behavior by the PGA Tour since July.

“LIV Golf is going to Hill this week to meet with legislators on both sides,” LIV’s lead spokesman, Jonathan Grella, told CNBC. “Due to the PGA Tour’s efforts to stifle our progress in reimagining the game, we thought it was imperative to educate members about LIV’s business model and to combat those Tour’s anti-competitive efforts.”

Norman is expected to meet a number of lawmakers. Representatives Nancy Mace, RN.C. and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Lead the informal congressional caucus on golf.

A representative for the PGA Tour declined to comment on the visit. Representatives for Mace and Panetta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The LIV Golf tournament was established as a competitor to the PGA Tour and is sponsored by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. LIV has scouted major golfers like Phil Mickelson from the PGA Tour, and Norman himself is a former tournament star. The tour, in turn, banned LIV-affiliated players from participating in its events.

Why Saudi Arabia spends billions of dollars to take over professional golf

LIV Golf has repeatedly called the PGA Tour’s actions anti-competitive. The emerging federation said that the PGA’s suspension of LIV players was an “attempt to stifle competition.”

From the other side, critics have called on the league’s associations with the Saudi government, seeing it as an attempt to “cleanse sport” to improve the nation’s image. Critics also note that the staggering wealth of the Saudi government makes any truly competing ideas a moot point. LIV has another strong supporter in former President Donald Trump, with whom the Bedminster, New Jersey, country club hosted a tournament event over the summer. His Doral Course in Miami will host another LIV event in late October.

As of 2021, the PGA Tour has paid $360,000 for the company DLA Piper to lobby legislators on a variety of topics, including “Saudi Arabia Golf Federation Proposals”. Several lawmakers – including Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. – expressed concern about LIV.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has taken a hard line against LIV.

“We welcome good, healthy competition. LIV Saudi Golf League is not. It’s an irrational threat, unrelated to return on investment or the real growth rate of the game.” Monahan told reporters earlier this year.

LIV Golf is also looking for a media deal, as the league has aired its premiere season on its own on its website and on YouTube. Recent reports say that Apple and Amazon have passed an insurance agreement. The league’s director of communications Will Staeger told CNBC he is “very optimistic” that they will have a partnership for the 2023 season. The PGA Tour has deals with CBS, ESPN and NBC.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC share the same parent company, NBCUniversal.

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