Greg Norman says proposed breakaway world golf tour has 'more legs' than his bid 25 years ago

Greg Norman, who failed with his bold bid to create a breakaway world tour 25 years ago, believes a fresh attempt to shake up golf has a "little more legs".

Greg Norman was speaking during the final day of the Saudi International ahead of attending the inaugural Golf Saudi Summit in King Abdullah Economic City

The two-time major winner also reckons the proposed Premier Golf League, which would feature just 48 players and include a Formula One-type format, could be a target for technology giants Amazon and Apple.

Norman was speaking as he attended the final day of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers ahead of being one of the keynote speakers at the Golf Saudi Summit in King Abdullah Economic City.

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"It’s just a matter of getting all the right components together, whether players stay together," said the 64-year-old as he reflected on his own bid, which he tried to push through at a time when he was the world No 1.

"With my original concept, some players loved it and others didn’t like it. I had corporate, I had television, but you need 100 per cent of the pie to be together before we can bake it. From what I’m seeing here, this one has every chance of getting off the ground."

Under the proposals by British-based World Golf Group, 48 players would compete in 18 tournaments, each over 54 holes, in an eight-month season from January to September for a total prize fund of $240 million (£183m) with no cut and an individual and team league format.

The weekly individual winner would claim $2m (£1.5m) of the $10m (£7.5m) purse, the overall individual champion will receive a $10m (£7.5m) bonus and there will be a $40m (£30m) team prize fund, with $14m (£10.7m) split between the winning four-man team.

It is being claimed that financing would come from various places, including Tokyo-based SoftBank and Middle East investors.

"The PGA did it, Formula One did it, tennis has done it, soccer has done it and so has cricket. I saw it 25 years ago, but maybe the time is right now," added Norman.

“It was pretty much the PGA Tour that stopped it. You’ve got to remember back in my day the players were looked on a little bit different. Seve [Ballesteros], Jose [Maria Olazabal] and I were trying to tell everybody we were independent contractors who could go and play anywhere in the world we want.

“Today is that way for sure now. Restraint of trade is not as prevalent - you can’t do it basically in this day and age - so that’s why this one probably has a little more legs.

“Management rallied against me a little bit because, at the time, they owned a piece of the golf tournaments at the time. So the confluence of everything has to come together to make sure it works."

In response to details of the proposed breakaway circuit being revealed at the end of last week, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and his PGA Tour counterpart Jay Monahan both sent emails to their members warning them of the consequences of joining a breakaway set up.

That followed world No 2 Rory McIlroy saying it might be the "catalyst for change" in the game, while four-time major winner Ernie Els admitted he "loved" the new plan.

“Not necessarily," replied Norman, speaking to reporters in a pavilion close to the Red Sea, to being asked if it was vital for both McIlroy and Tiger Woods to be among the 48 players for a set up due to be launched in two years' time.

"Tiger and Rory are not going to be around forever, the concept has to have longevity that will stand the test of time.

“The proposed start of January 2022, the players are going to be two years older so you’ve got to look at the young generation who are out here playing.

“We don’t know who it is, but they’re out here playing at the moment and they’re going to be the ones carrying it then, so you need to have them looking at it saying I want to be on that Tour. You are building a tour for longevity not for just two or three years."

Will fear be the biggest hurdle for players if they will be blocked from returning to the two traditional main circuits if this league started but then went belly up?

“Everybody from Tours to management companies, TVC and sponsors they all see benefit in some degree, but all of them can only be successful for one reason - the players," said Norman, who is attending the inaugural Saudi summit to learn more about the game's rapid growth within the Kingdom.

“But the players all have a manager so there are a lot of different conversations happening behind the scenes for everybody to feel comfortable for signing up.

“In my day, I didn’t have a manager, I just wanted to do what I thought was best for the game. It wasn’t even for me because I was giving up equity in the business because I wanted to share what I knew about the game of golf with places around the world that was never getting to see it."

Organisers of the Premier Golf League have still to show their hand in terms of TV coverage, with the European Tour's broadcast partner being Sky Sports while the PGA Tour has deals with NBC CBS and Golf Channel.

Asked about that, Norman, one of the most successful businessmen in the game, said: “Who is one of the biggest companies in the world right now with a trillion dollar business? Apple. And Amazon. Streaming is the future.

“I was just live streaming the Australian Open tennis before I came to speak to you. Everybody is out for this real time, 5G, 6G, instantaneous coverage. Boom here it is, no matter where we are in the world.

“Why not stream golf on Apple, why not on Amazon? Get out of the box. There are opportunities out there that are far greater than even I could have contemplated back in my day.”

Within hours of arriving in Saudi Arabia, Norman revealed he'd heard whispers of this proposal perhaps triggering a merger between the PGA Tour and European Tour to effectively create a world circuit.

“It might accelerate conversations between the PGA Tour and European Tour about joining forces now, which has been talked about since 1994," he said. “I’ve always thought there was room to have the best players travel the world in a true World Tour.

"The way the game has changed from my era to today - 25 years ago we’d never be in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam or even considered Cuba. Now I’ve built golf courses in Jordan, Oman, Dubai and now I’m out in Saudi.

“You’ve got to look forward to the where we are headed and take the important next step."