Should NFL be worried about a LIV Golf-style competitor?

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In recent weeks, LIV Golf has emerged as an unexpected competitor for the PGA Tour. The fight has quickly gotten nasty, and the dollars quickly have mushroomed from enormous to obscene. Most recently, the possibility has emerged of the LIV Golf folks poaching Charles Barkley from his long-time role with Inside the NBA.

So, should the NFL be worried about something like this happening in pro football?

On one hand, it’s a lot easier to set up a series of golf events to compete with the PGA. Golfers are one-man teams. It’s a sport driven largely by TV, and it doesn’t take much infrastructure to drop players onto a course with cameras covering the action and a few broadcasters talking into microphones.

On the other hand, the nation has an overwhelming appetite for football, especially during football season. While the NFL, thanks iconic franchises throughout the nation and a massive fan base that follows the sport intensely and passionately, has the money and the power to beat back challengers (no one has even tried since the original USFL in the 1980s), the ongoing growth of legalized gambling will create an appetite for things on which to wager.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights remain wide open, and the league’s broadcast antitrust exemption prevents NFL games from being played on Friday nights and Saturdays from Labor Day through early December. That’s four night per week that a competing league could use — until the NFL inevitable begins playing games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

One specific hurdle would entail acquiring talent. More money could be offered to incoming players than the NFL currently pays, thanks to its 11-year-old rookie wage scale. Veteran players whose contracts expire also would be fair game.

Of course, a rival league would need to fund much more than player payrolls. Coaches, officials, executives, etc. Not to mention adequate venues.

Most importantly, the rival league would need one or more broadcast partners. That wouldn’t be easy, given that every major network already does business with the NFL. If one of the league’s broadcast partners became partners in the broadcasting of another league, the NFL would not be happy, to say the least. If a network that hopes to eventually do business with the NFL does business with another league, that network would dramatically reduce its ability to ever attract an NFL contract.

Obviously, it would take a lot money. The Public Investment Fund, the official name of the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, has launched LIV Golf. It reportedly has estimated assets of $620 billion. If the Public Investment Fund wants to try to take on the NFL, it can. It may not work, but it has the money to at least try.

Here’s the real question. Is LIV Golf a limited venture, or is it the first step toward broader ambitions of the Public Investment Fund? If it makes a move in the football industry, it can make it uncomfortable and expensive for the NFL, at a minimum. Along the way, it could bait the NFL into committing antitrust violations, which it already may have done to the PGA Tour.

The question isn’t whether it will. They question is whether it can. And $620 billion in assets says it can.

Thus, even if it never happens, the possibility should at least be flickering on the outer edge of the radar screen of the things about which the NFL is concerned. The NFL may need to be thinking about rapidly employing strategies for fending off an entity with ultra-deep pockets that decides to try to encroach on the NFL’s turf. And the NFL should be very cognizant of behaviors that could result in an eventual verdict far larger than the $3 it lost at trial after the USFL proved that the NFL had crossed the line of legal liability, but had failed to prove actual harm resulting from the league’s proven antitrust violation.

25 responses to “Should NFL be worried about a LIV Golf-style competitor?

  1. I don’t watch either. But I know when the pro bowl is. I had no idea the all star game was even on. I’m surprised the all star game beats out the pro bowl tbh.

  2. A Saudi sponsored football league?
    I would think they’d have more interest in a soccer league.
    But yeah, football sponsored by them would only widen the moral dilemma and sow more division in this country.
    If that would be their ultimate goal, then there might be a possibility.

  3. The smarter move would be to capitalize on the utter chaos in the NCAA. Create a league to eliminate college football and set a foundation to build upon. NIL opened the door to the destruction of NCAA football. Just need deep pockets to sign those high school players to multi-million dollar contracts. Hard to imagine the players leaving to go to the NFL and take a pay cut.

  4. I think the assertion that there’s an ‘overwhelming appetite for football’ is a little off. I don’t think the original USFL or any of the other competitor leagues were beaten back; it’s more that people like the NFL for professional football, college & high school football for more amateur-level football, and there’s no demand for or interest in a semi-pro league.

    Not enough people want the new USFL, or the Arena League, or the old or new XFL, or NFL Europe, or any of the other answers to a question that nobody is asking.

  5. Given the extreme demand the NFL is seeing in Germany for the game to be played there.. why couldn’t a few real Oligarchs cobble together a world football governing body and poach a few NFL teams?

  6. College football could be a better target for a competitor. With college players blocked from the NFL for 3 years and only getting money via NIL, they could disrupt the current chaos while the NCAA tries and figures out what to do about it.

  7. I have always thought there is one entity powerful enough to take on the NFL…the NFLPA! When it comes to the most critical parts of a franchise, who is truly the least needed? Owners! Let’s say the NFLPA decides to break away, they couldn’t keep the names, or play in their current stadiums, so how could it work, and would it be worth it? Currently, players get about 50% of revenues. Let’s say NFLPA wants to go after 70%? First setup a cap and contracts that are strictly %’s, it’s the cap at 70%. Next allocate 20% to team operations, GM, trainers, etc. That leaves 10%, where does that go? For this to work and take hold, it goes to the city/surrounding area. No longer team names, you literally play for the city. Play in huge publicly funded stadiums around the country. Finally public funding for these things make sense. Does Congress/judges truly side with Owners to take away from this level of donation potential? Get some good lawyers and make it happen. The worst part of the NFL are the owners…are they really needed?

  8. The saddest part of this whole article is that the Saudi PIF has $620B in assets while 99.5% of Saudi citizens live in extreme poverty.

  9. I remember when the Toronto Argonauts stole Rocket Ismail from the NFL draft where he was going first overall. Those CFL owners were rich if I remember correctly. There won’t be a real rival anytime soon but things like this I can see happening in the future.

  10. It could never happen, too much $ to field an entire team and league. Rumors are LIV is paying up to $500m to sign golfers. But I’d welcome it, competition is good. For all the smear campaigns against LIV, it’s completely overlooked the PGA tour significantly increased payouts to tournaments and players in response. Greed at the top exists on all levels, but kind of amazing the tour had that much extra money just floating around to give out.

  11. Or…. What happens when The Big10 and SEC decide they will start paying players and turn college football into a rival league of the NFL. Realistically those schools all have facilities, coaches, fan bases and tv contracts. The one thing they do not have now are players under contract. What happens to the NFL if todays college players decide they want to become a pro but instead of entering the draft the sign with Iowa or USC…

  12. Someone should start a league competing with college football. It’s vulnerable. You could get every single top high school prospect. Grow it from there into a league that takes on the NFL. Baby steps.

  13. The nfl has no current worries. Soccer will eventually overtake it in popularity though.

  14. The PGA like the NFL is in business to make money. They both make quite a lot and pay their employees with that money. The LIV tour isn’t making money, it’s only spending money it has already made. The goal of LIV is to make the world like the saudis. They made their money from oil. The LIV tour is paying their players and courses from the gas pumps around the world. Every time I fill up, I think of Phil and Greg.

  15. “The question isn’t whether it will. They question is whether it can.”

    Add to that whether it wants to. It does have the assets but why would it want to? It is already being accused of “sportswashing” with golf over their involvement in the Khashoggi death. Football is frequently under Congress’ microscope where golf is not. With the political issues about that involvement over Khashoggi that is not where they would want to be but where they would end up. It is far easier to control golfers than an entire league. Ask Roger Goodell.

  16. Saw some highlights from the late 90s recently, and there were some from when the NFL was on TNT. Maybe TNT and/or TBS would be interested in broadcasting games from an alternative football league.

  17. Golf has international appeal, and has had hundreds of popular, money-making events around the world for decades.

    The NFL is expanding, but I have friends in the UK who say it’s still mostly a smaller but rabid group of people there who are into American football. Not sure the global landscape is the same for football as it is for golf.

    If your theory has any credence, the next league to worry should maybe be the Premier League? Soccer is pretty huge everywhere. Tennis? The logistics of single player sports would seem much easier to manage- luring one guy at a time has been working for them against the PGA. Getting multiple teams together in a whole new league with new facilities would be a LOT more complicated.

  18. The best way for the NFL to ward off a LIV type competitor is to continue expansion into Europe and Mexico.

  19. The NFL has had plenty of competitors.
    Most are dead and buried.

    The only threat to the NFL long-term is MAYBE if people’s children stop playing football and play other safer sports, their kids will have no interest in football

  20. My opinion is it wouldn’t work. The NFL is the marketing king. I love football but would have zero interest in another league or a side show. They never work. It will be the NFL and the NFL only until football at least as we currently know it, fades away. The NFL could expand or start a league in another country but the NFL would have to be involved for it to succeed.

  21. The NFL sheds so many named guys so quickly both players and coaches that with the right marketing and time of year (spring is terrible for post-nfl football) they could make a real run at it.

  22. Once the SEC and the BIG10 have 16 teams, the 32 schools football programs sever ties with the NCAA and create there own fall football league for 18 to 22 year old’s.

  23. Given the massive financial costs, the only way a rival pro football league would work is if a group with multi-billions backed it. And really, how many of those types are out there willing to do so?

  24. It’s actually around 20% if you trust google

    Trust No One says:
    July 21, 2022 at 6:06 am
    The saddest part of this whole article is that the Saudi PIF has $620B in assets while 99.5% of Saudi citizens live in extreme poverty.

    402Rate This

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