Pelley was speaking following the announcement of the European Tour’s new sponsorship deal with DP World, a deal which Pelley believes will be “game changing.”
Beginning in 2022, the tour will be rebranded to the DP World Tour, while also bringing in “significant” investment.
According to the statement released by the European Tour on Tuesday, the new sponsorship deal will result in total prize money reaching over $200 million for the first time. There will also be a new minimum prize fund of $2 million for all tournaments solely sanctioned by the DP World Tour.
Although the deal represents a new era of growth for the European Tour, according to Pelley, news of a lucrative, Saudi-backed global tour – to be led by golf legend Greg Norman – has raised questions about whether players could earn more outside of the traditional circuits: the European Tour and the PGA Tour.
The new venture will reportedly offer eye-watering amounts of money to lure some of golf’s biggest names to compete against each other on a more regular basis.
Speaking in May, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson said it might be something fans would be interested in.
“I think the fans would love it because they would see the best players play exponentially more times,” Mickelson told ESPN. “Instead of four or five times, it would be 20 times … I don’t know what the final number is.
“But that’s a big deal to give up control of your schedule. I don’t know if the players would be selfless enough to do that. But every other sport, the entity or teams or leagues control the schedule. The players kind of play where they are told to play. Whereas here, we’re able to control it.”
Most sports in the US have collective bargaining, like the NBA, where the players get an almost 50-50 share of revenues with team owners. In comparison, golfers get a smaller share of broadcast money but major winner Justin Thomas doesn’t think they are unfairly compensated.
“Maybe in the past,” Thomas said ahead of the Mayakoba Golf Classic earlier in November.
“But I think with stuff like the Player Impact Program and purses and everything going up, I think it’s becoming that way because it doesn’t matter what you do or what sport you play or whatever it is, there’s always going to be a handful or a group of guys that push the revenue or push the interest.”
The PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program (PIP) is designed to reward players who positively drive fan and sponsor engagement. It will award the top-10 most popular players based on a composite score of their media exposure from a reported fund of $40 million.
Pelley – who has vast experience working in North American sports with the Canadian Football League and the National Hockey League – says that in his opinion, golfers get “enough in terms of revenue share.”
“The answer is our revenue share is significant and it is comparable, in my opinion, to the major sports in North America,” Pelley continued. “It would take me at least 60 minutes to explain to you that it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. So the answer to your question is emphatically yes, they do get enough in terms of revenue share.”
Pelley said that the announcement of the sponsorship with DP World isn’t a response to the announcement of the new Saudi-backed league, but rather the culmination of discussions that began in 2018.
And including the word ‘world’ in its title is a fitting decision given the Tour’s global schedule.
Next year, it will feature a minimum of 47 tournaments across 27 countries – 23 in Europe, 24 around the rest of the world – including new tournaments in the UAE, Japan, South Africa and Belgium.
But while it will come with an increased prize fund, the deal is about more than that.
“The Challenge Tour (the European Tour’s feeder tour) is also going to get increased prize funding, increased playing opportunities, increased events,” he explained. “But also what we are going to do is invest money in other areas like physio and fitness and nutrition and such, which will allow the Challenge Tour players to be more ready when they’re on the DP World Tour.”
He added: “We’re also going to support our charity ‘Golf for Good,’ and we’re also going to invest into golfers with a disability, which is something that we believe strongly in terms of the inclusivity of the game. We this year had the European Disabled Golf Tour, four qualifying events, the final event will be next week at the DP World Tour. So this is a lot more than just about money for top players.”