Today marks the start of a five-day hearing in London that will ultimately decide whether those European players who have joined LIV Golf will be able to carry on playing in European Tour (DP World] events and be able to qualify for the Ryder Cup.
A three-member arbitration panel at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in central London will hear five days of arguments from lawyers for a group of 13 LIV Golf players and those representing the DP World Tour in an attempt to clarify the playing status of the former on the latter.
The case arose when players requested ‘conflicting event’ releases from the DP World Tour in order to play the inaugural LIV Golf event held at Centurion Club in Hertfordshire last June. Those requests were denied but the players competed regardless and were fined £100,000 and suspended from the Scottish Open.
Initially Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding appealed against the decision and the punishments were stayed pending a substantive appeal, allowing the players to compete in DP World Tour events, with Otaegui winning the Andalucia Masters in October.
The number of players contesting their right to play then grew to 16, but Sergio García, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace have since withdrawn from the case, which will be heard behind closed doors by Sports Resolutions UK.
While the PGA Tour is involved in a separate anti-trust lawsuit with LIV Golf and a handful of its players who were suspended for playing on the Saudi-funded circuit, DP World Tour officials have stressed the narrow parameters of the arbitration case.
In a briefing held at the Dubai Desert Classic, the DP World Tour’s director of communications, Scott Crockett, said: “The hearing centres solely on our conflicting event release regulation and our ability to enforce it. Every member signs up to our regulations when they pay their membership fees each year. There are precedents where they have not been granted in the past.”
Henrik Stenson, who is not among the 13 appellants, but lost the Ryder Cup captaincy after joining LIV, said: “There are multiple tours in the world. As long as you fulfil your membership criteria and earn your right to be there, you should be able to play in as many tournaments as you like.”
The arbitrations hearing is scheduled to conclude on Friday [February 10], although it is understood that a verdict will not be publicly announced for several weeks.