Keith Pelley: Taking golf’s European Tour back to the future

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Keith Pelley's vision for 2016 and beyond
06:22 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Keith Pelley took over as European Tour CEO last year

Canadian wants to make sport more attractive for players and fans

He promises: "We are going to make a significant change"

CNN  — 

He was a big noise in Canadian sports and media, but now Keith Pelley is on a quest to transform golf’s European Tour – and then some.

Pelley, who took over from George O’Grady as CEO of the Tour in April last year, has some revolutionary ideas and believes golf should not be afraid to embrace new ways of thinking to make it more attractive for players and fans alike.

The 52-year-old, the ex-president of Rogers Media and a former boss of Canadian Football League outfit the Toronto Argonauts, hopes to make the Tour “significantly different” by 2018.

But one of this visionary’s blue-sky scenarios – to match his trademark blue spectacles – is unlikely to happen.

“I love the game – I love all aspects of the game – but if I was to change one thing it would have to be going back 200 years and probably making it 12 holes,” Pelley told CNN’s Living Golf show.

The Old Course at St Andrews is said to have evolved into the benchmark for the standard 18-hole round back in the 18th century.

Recent studies, however, have suggested that the traditional form of the game is incompatible with modern life and participation is declining.

However, Pelley points to a European Tour report published in October that suggests golf participation is more in flux than freefall.

“Perhaps the traditional way of playing 18 holes is somewhat in decline, but overall participation in the game is increasing dramatically through different things like adventure golf, driving ranges and pitch and putts,” he said. “Overall, the participation in the game, I think, is very strong.”

So having established that there is an appetite for golf in some form, Pelley has set his sights on building the European Tour into a viable alternative to the more lucrative PGA Tour in America.

“A lot of people say that we’re in the golf business. Yes, we are in the golf business, but I say that we’re also in the content business and we’re in the entertainment business,” he said.

“Golf happens to be our platform. So if we’re in the entertainment business then our players are our stars, and supporting our players and making them bigger stars is the most critical part of our game going forward.

“We have to grow this tour with them, and that’s the critical point – growing it with them.”

The result, Pelley believes, will be a Tour that looks and feel significantly different in a couple of years – more events and more prize money, bigger, better and brighter for both golfers and fans.