DP World Tour vs LIV Golf players hearing: What is happening and what could the outcome be?
Will DP World Tour members be allowed to continue playing LIV Golf events without punishment? Key questions ahead of this week's arbitration hearing between the DP World Tour and the legal team representing 13 appellants
By Jamie Weir - @jamiecweir
Last Updated: 07/02/23 9:32am
What is the hearing taking place between the DP World Tour and the legal team representing 13 LIV members this week? Why is it happening and what could the outcome be? Sky Sports News' Jamie Weir takes a closer look at what could be a defining week in the sport...
Why is a hearing taking place?
Before LIV's inaugural event at the Centurion Club last June, a number of DP World Tour players asked for releases to play at the 'London Invitational', a tournament which clashed with the Tour's 'Scandinavian Mixed' event. They were denied these releases, but disregarded them and played anyway.
Two weeks later, the DP World Tour announced these players would be fined £100,000 and suspended for two tournaments - the co-sanctioned Scottish Open and Barbasol Championship taking place from July 7-10 and the Barracuda Championship the following week.
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Three players - Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding - challenged this ruling and the punishment was 'stayed'. This has allowed all LIV golfers eligible to play on the DP World Tour to do so for the last seven months.
What will happen?
This is not a court case, but rather an arbitration panel hearing. Two Kings Councils and former High Court judge His Honour Phillip Sycamore CBE comprise the three-man panel, who will hear evidence from the DP World Tour's legal team and the legal team representing 13 appellants.
The hearing takes place behind closed doors at Sport Resolutions in London over the course of five days - February 6 to February 10. Their verdict isn't expected for several weeks after that.
Who are the 13 appellants?
The number of appellants was initially 16, but Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel have now withdrawn from the case.
That leaves the initial three players who challenged the ruling last June - Poulter, Otaegui and Harding - as well as Lee Westwood, Sam Horsfield, Richard Bland, Shaun Norris, Laurie Canter, Wade Ormsby, Patrick Reed, Bernd Wiesberger, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer.
What is the DP World Tour's position?
Much like the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour has a release system in place to assure that its tournaments are properly represented to sponsors and broadcasters. It requires permission to play outside of its events.
Whilst often those permissions are granted, there are precedents for the Tour not granting releases in the past. Therefore, their argument is pretty straightforward; they believe they are within our rights to apply sanctions.
What is the position of the appellants?
The 13 appellants are essentially claiming that the Tour didn't have the right to impose these sanctions and that they weren't proportionate.
LIV also has an entirely separate and ongoing case against the PGA Tour, who they've sued over antitrust issues. They claim the PGA Tour is anti-competitive by not allowing its members the freedom to play golf elsewhere without restrictions.
Will the DP World Tour ban players?
The hearing centres on the DP World Tour's conflicting event regulations and its ability to enforce those rules, rather than their right - as widely misreported - to 'ban' these players from playing in its tournaments.
The three-man panel will instead decide whether the Tour is permitted to deny releases and impose sanctions in the form of fines and suspensions should they be ignored.
What could the hearing result mean?
If the panel rules in the DP World Tour's favour it effectively does mean all the appellants will - for want of a better term - be 'banned', as there are nine LIV events this season that clash with DP World Tour events.
If the punishment was again to be a two-tournament suspension at every violation, that would see players barred from playing in 18 DP World Tour events, which also happens to be the exact number of events (in non-LIV weeks) remaining on the 2023 calendar.
If it rules in favour of the appellants then they will be able to continue playing on the DP World Tour outside of their LIV commitments, which could create yet more friction and bad blood with players who have 'remained loyal'.
What are the repercussions of an appellants victory?
Not only could LIV target other DP World Tour players in an attempt to lure them over, but LIV players who currently don't have DP World Tour cards - such as Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka - could see this as their best path of securing world ranking points currently denied to the LIV tour.
That said, it is worth pointing out that the option of taking up DP World Tour membership has been available to all these aforementioned players in the last seven months and they've declined to do so. Others - Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer and Talor Gooch to name just three - have taken up the option of playing in Europe, however.
A victory for the appellants could also have implications for Europe's Ryder Cup team, as it would give LIV golfers a better opportunity to qualify for Luke Donald's team that play in Rome later this year.