Written by Sandhya Karthik, CNN
Former golf superstar Greg Norman will launch the World Golf Super League — a new mega-league tournament that will pit 14 top golfers against each other in teams from 11 of the world’s biggest cities.
On the plus side, that means there’s more professional competition for the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth than ever before.
On the flip side, this sounds extremely painful: The league kicks off in 2018 and is being promoted by Ahmed Badawi and the International Association of Golfers, a new Saudi-backed association of “doctors and physicians, psychologists, national and international fitness trainers and members of the public from across the Middle East and North Africa.”
The league has already had its logo redesigned since forming in 2015 — and we’re sold!
But the ball has only just started rolling with a $12 million, multi-year commitment from the PGA Tour, who described the effort as an “excellent fit” for the league’s agenda.
In an interview with CNN, Norman, who has links to the Saudi Prince, said that the league aims to boost “civic participation, sportsmanship and good networking” for a $27 million investment in golf clubs in Saudi Arabia
“We are here to innovate,” he said. “With the investment in this new professional franchise league comes the opportunity to share the wealth and … engage with the youth in many more ways …
“We’ll make golf a lifestyle, bringing celebrities to the venues around the world.”
The Saudi Arabian leader is building up the sport in the Middle East by hiring a secretary general, T.J. Darby, who is “one of the few General Managers to have successfully navigated the travel travails of the Boston Celtics, Major League Baseball, World of Boxing and European football,” according to the league’s debut website.
The PGA Tour is hopeful this can bring about another round of tourism growth in the wake of the impact of the war in Yemen , which has caused food and fuel shortages, and seen an upsurge in violence.
The deal, which would see Norman’s Global Events Group take a 50% stake in the league, is also another step in the meteoric rise of Badawi, the son of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, following the suicide bombing attack on a mosque in Medina in January — in which at least 85 people were killed — and the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which was hit in an attack just days later.
For Norman, promoting football as an extension of a sport that has historically struggled to secure fans is not surprising.
“Football has withstood this testing circumstance in Saudi Arabia and on the Asian continent.” said Norman. “I’ve spent considerable time working in football, it will be a good fit.”
Indeed, the league has already had trouble filling some of its venues, which are all part of the International Golf Federation Superleague’s international tours, because of rising local tour events.
The league promises “international presence” in Brazil, China, Denmark, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Italy, Nigeria, North Korea, Qatar, Spain, Sweden and the United States. The league’s debut season will include 14 teams and a four-week world tour, with the final coming at the end of the year.