Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pro Team Golf League update - interview

Awhile back, I put up a post about the launch of the Pro Team Golf League. Perhaps naively, I thought it sounded like a great and novel idea. I have since learned that similar projects have been attempted in the past and failed to either have a solid business model or solid intentions.

I still think it sounds like a great idea and I hope it works. I have also discovered that I wasn't the only person who found the concept to be slightly confusing. This confusion seems to stem from the fact that there is fan involvement. At first glance, some might think it's a fantasy league. However, this is a league played by actual professional golfers. It crosses the fantasy line because the fans not only pick their teams but the choices they make for those teams are actually reflected in the game.

I wanted to know more about the concept and plans for this new golf league that I previously juxtaposed with baseball's minor leagues or farm teams. I submitted some questions to the league and received some answers back from Tom Belton, General Counsel and Executive Committee Member for PTGL. They cleared up a few things for me. Here are his responses:

Golfchick: Who owns the current teams?

TB: A team owner is separate from the owners of PTGL. The owner could be a local business person with strong ties to the golf, travel or entertainment markets. The owner could be the foursome at the country club who loves the idea of team golf, or owning an affordable sports franchise. The owner could be the person who wants to be in the forefront of bringing a brand new form of sports entertainment to market. The owner could be a retired sports or entertainment celebrity. Owners are likely to be technology or sports geeks, or both. We know this because we happen to be in discussions with each of these interested groups.

[Golfchick note: good information, but that didn't answer my question about the owners of the two existing teams that will be competing in the inaugural event. Tom, if you're reading this, could you answer that in a comment on this post?]

Golfchick: What is an owner's involvement?

TB: The owner has total control of the team. The owner negotiates and signs up the players from the Player Eligibility List provided by PTGL. The owner picks the home venue for matches. The owner negotiates and signs up local advertisers and sponsors. The owner connects with the fans and tries to drive more fans to his or her team. The owner makes the profit and shares with the league in its 60% revenue share and 10% profit pool. The owner truly owns a sports franchise.

Golfchick: Does the league pay the players or do the owners?

The team owners have total control and responsibility here to compensate the team players subject to minimum compensation requirements established by PTGL. The League requires something beyond a base compensation to be paid to players to make sure the League also benefits players.

Golfchick: Do the players earn prize money in addition to a salary?

Team owners are required to give players some financial upside either as a percentage of the purse or total team revenue or profit. The League guidelines suggest that 50% of the purse be distributed to players. We are also recommending that team owners set aside some equity for players just like a Wall Street business. We want players to be partners with team owners, not adversaries like in most sports franchises today.

Golfchick: What kind of recruitment efforts are being made to attract players?

TB: Mike Davis, an ex-PGA player and one of the most recognized golf instructors in the country, leads our player recruitment effort. It just so happens his son Brien is currently a player on the Canadian Tour and knows many of them already. We’ve had a 100% success rate in attracting mini-Tour players to sign up for the Player Eligibility List. We will continue to look for the best players out there. And we encourage player’s who participate in your blog who have an interest in competing to come to ptgl.com and apply for the Eligibility List.

Golfchick: Will the teams be limited in number or geographical area (e.g. only 8 teams the first year, expand to X number in the future, only one team per geographical region)?

No, although the initial focus in the first 3 years will be in North America. One of the goals is to help US players develop match play skills. Some of these players will be future Ryder Cup players. We expect to have 24 teams in North America within 3 years but this is easily positioned for a much larger roll-out if there is fan demand for more.

Golfchick: How many players max per team?

Team owners have flexibility here but generally a maximum of 12 with only 8 playing per week.

Golfchick: How does someone interested in being an owner put a team together?

TB: Dick Newbert is the PTGL Director of Team Develoopment. You can contact him through ptgl.com by clicking on the Team Development tab and sending an email with either a question or description of your interest in team ownership.

Golfchick: Will there be ladies' teams or co-ed teams?

TB: We hope so. PTGL is open to the best professional golfers on the mini-Tours or the LPGA. We'd love to see an LPGA Team go against a team from one of the other Tours. How does that sound as a potential exciting rivalry? It also gives US women a chance to hone match play skills.

Golfchick: Does the PTGL have any television contracts yet?

No, but The Golf Channel will televise our inaugural event – US v Canada in Jamaica. It will be played 12/13-12/16 and televised sometime in January. We expect to have a television contract in place before the League regular season launch in 2007. Our plans also include streaming video for matches over the internet.

Golfchick: Who are the major sponsors?

The Canadian Professional Golf Tour and the Rose Hall Resort in Jamaica are our first sponsors. We are currently in negotiations with 2 large financial services industry leaders and some sports equipment companies for sponsorship.

Golfchick: Is every involved fan a ProCoach?

TB: Yes. Every fan who registers as ProCoach on ptgl.com can be as active a ProCoach as desired. The fan could lead blogs, message forums, and IM campaigns to discuss and lead team strategy. Or the fan could keep a low profile and quietly make selections. But the higher the fan's Strat.EQ (success quotient), the more weight that fan gets in voting.

Golfchick: Does the system aggregate the decisions of the ProCoaches or is there a team leader?

That’s up to the team and the fan. Other than the weighting factor above, every fan’s voice counts the same. But like in any community, some fans can actively take leadership roles. I’d listen to the fan with the highest EQ more than I’d listen to the fan with the lowest EQ.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Tom.

I have been invited to participate in beta testing of the "Strat.e.golf" system, so if I have time, I'll try it out and post my thoughts about it.

I'm interested to know what you all think about this league and its potential. Please feel free to comment or even ask more questions of the PTGL and I'll try to get them to answer. For more information, check their website at www.ptgl.com.

Next post


TomB said...

Sorry I missed the point on your question on the ownership of teams. There are no owners of the US v Canada teams in the first event at Rose Hall Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica on December 16. It's a coming out party for PTGL, all on us. Many celebrity athletes will be there. Membership for fans for this event is also free. www.ptgl.com

Tom Belton

Golfchick said...

Thanks for answering so quickly, Tom.

So what will happen to those two teams after the event? Will the players go back on the eligibility list to be picked up by an owner for a full time team?


hapisol said...

good interview.

hope u will interview another great golfer next time.