LIV’s peculiar sue-first strategy is no way to win

LIV Golf, Greg Norman,(Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images)
LIV Golf, Greg Norman,(Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images) /

The judicial system has probably witnessed more golf-related cases than it can handle this year, and most of them stem from one organization. In July, we learned that the DOJ opened an investigation into the PGA’s handling of defecting players to LIV Golf.

Before the FedEx St. Jude Championship, a district judge in California ruled that three LIV players suing the PGA to get into the tournament couldn’t receive emergency relief, and couldn’t participate in the playoffs.

This week, we learned about the wild $750m lawsuit initiated by Patrick Reed against Brandel Chamblee and the Golf Channel. With all of this litigation, it’s getting to a point where a law degree is needed to cover golf.

Taking a step back, we have to ask what LIV’s long-term strategy is.

Even if it’s not formally filing suit, incessant litigation seems to be at the center of the LIV Golf battle plan.

Yet, this seems like an odd way to grow the sport and capture any disaffected PGA fans out there. Constant legal interventions could easily jade potential fans and turn them against the nascent LIV Tour.

Both leagues have PR departments that can spin these suits in either direction, but if the public at any point perceives that these suits are incessant or unfair, it could eat at the LIV Tour fanbase and push fans to the PGA permanently.

While some of these lawsuits might succeed or prove fruitful for LIV, they ultimately drain time, energy, and resources from the fledgling tour. No staff member wants to sit in a deposition; the communications team doesn’t want to write press releases about court hearings; and the players, presumably, just want to play golf.

It doesn’t seem like LIV is hurting for money, but lawyers aren’t free. And no one likes accounting documents littered with legal expenses.

What’s more, the Patrick Reed suit against the Golf Channel is an odd move in the midst of LIV actively shopping around its media rights.

Perhaps no one at the Golf Channel would want to go after LIV based on Chamblee’s alleged comments, but taking one potential network out of the running likely lowers the overall value of any TV deal.

Moreover, I suspect that LIV’s sue-first-ask-questions-later approach unnerves other media executives who want to bid for those rights.

Lastly, and most importantly, the LIV lawsuits take the focus away from the product itself. LIV should be putting all of its energy into showing people how its events are more fun, more competitive, and more player-friendly than the PGA Tour.

By throwing lawsuit after lawsuit at the wall to see what sticks, the story isn’t about high-quality golf. It’s about legal jargon that golf fans could care less about.

All told, the sue-first approach rarely works as a long-term growth strategy for any business. While LIV might not be directly responsible for all of this litigation, it has shown support for its players in their pursuit of taking on institutional golf.

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But like I recently wrote, LIV should only care about one thing as it tries to make its mark on the sport, designing the most competitive, fan-friendly golf league possible.

Until it can accomplish that feat, it’ll struggle to compete with the PGA. And suing the league and everyone related to it ceaselessly will not endear anyone to LIV.