The story of the weekend was the LIV Golf…whatever, or LIV Golf Whatever, finally going from theory or proposal to the real thing. Even complete with the suppression of the press, which is an astonishingly good look for a company funded by a government that is mostly known for suppressing the press in murderous fashion.
It’s kind of the Middle East’s first foray into American sports, insomuch as it drew American players away from the PGA Tour, along with others. It wasn’t much of a story that you can seduce soulless robots that professional golfers mostly are by just offering them more money than they’ve ever seen. Especially players like Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, who are probably done winning on tour, at least all that regularly. As far as Dustin Johnson goes, well, he’s got tumbleweeds between his ears. These guys were never going to care about optics, because they’re likely unaware of them or even how to spell the word. And if they are aware…$200 million buys a lot of willful ignorance.
Poaching individuals in an individual sport is one thing. We’ve seen Middle East countries get into European soccer, and technically they’re into American ones as New York City FC are part of the City Football group, owned by Abu Dhabi. But that’s not not the four major ones, and MLS keeps all owners bracketed in a way. And the City Football Group, outside of Manchester City, basically acts like a feeder system for Manchester City. So that’s not the concept of sportswashing coming ashore quite yet.
But one has to feel that it will. Newcastles, PSG, City are the tentpoles in Europe, with the latter two becoming two of the leading clubs and brands in the world now. We’ll see what Newcastle becomes.
The thought that the Saudi or Qatari front with the limitless funds coming into the NBA, or NHL, or MLB, or NFL is laughable now, with some vague citing of the rules of how prospective new owners have to pass muster with the existing owners and the existing club would never let something like that happen that would challenge them. They said that before the Saudis’ purchase of Newcastle, and yet here we are. Even though Newcastle, armed with a bottomless money pit, will make life tougher on more clubs in the Premier League than it won’t, they were passed as acceptable owners.
If pro golfers don’t have any scruples, can you really expect the billionaires who own sports teams to have any more? Sure, they would probably think they’re safe with their various salary caps and restrictions. But look at how MLB owners shat themselves at the thought of Steve Cohen joining the room. What would they do if the PIF shows up with not only the billions to buy a team but the billions to buy off just enough owners to sign off?
Maybe something like that couldn’t warp an American sport the way they have French and English soccer. You can’t buy a Super Bowl thanks to the cap, right? Though the Rams sure tried and succeeded. But in the NBA and MLB, with their exceptions and only taxes? What would it matter?
All LIV Golf has proven that is there is a price for everything, which shouldn’t have been a lesson we need on the semi regular but still seem to. If anything, a room of NFL owners would only envy the kind of power and audacity of any Middle Eastern government group coming in to their club, though they’d never say so publicly. Hell, look at how the NBA heeled and sat at the knee of the Chinese government over one tweet. There are no boundaries anymore.
They’ll get a team, they’ll build a new stadium, they’ll lavish their players in ways not seen before, and they won’t ask for a public dollar to do it. And that’s what would scare American owners the most. The fact that a group like that could get all the things they’re desperate to have, the things that keeps what little blood they have pumping through their aging bodies, but they won’t have to hold up anyone to do it. The human rights, the murders, the poisoning of the planet…none of that would matter to the Big Four’s owners. It’s that one of their own would make their con game look exactly that to the world.
We should all brace. It’ll happen one day soon.