April 6 (Reuters) – The DP World Tour has won its legal battle to be able to suspend and fine LIV Golf players who featured in conflicting events without permission after the independent UK-based panel of Sports Resolutions found in its favour on Thursday.
Members of the DP World Tour, also known as the European Tour, who played in Saudi-backed LIV Golf’s opening tournament last June sought a “conflicting event” exemption but the request was denied and they received three-event bans and fines.
Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding appealed against the decision and the punishments were out on hold pending an appeal, which allowed LIV players to continue competing on the DP World Tour without penalty.
The number of appellants increased to 16, but Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Otaegui withdrew before the five-day Sports Resolutions hearing took place in February.
The appeal panel on Thursday found that the sanctioned players “committed serious breaches” of the code of behaviour of the DP World Tour’s regulations by playing in LIV events despite their release requests having been refused.
The decision could have huge implications for Lee Westwood, Poulter and Garcia, who may face bans from the Ryder Cup.
“The appeals were dismissed and each of the Appellants were ordered to pay the fine of 100,000 pounds ($124,540.00)originally imposed by (the DP World Tour),” it added.
The panel found that DP World Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley “acted entirely reasonably in refusing releases” and that the regulations “cannot be said to go beyond what is necessary and proportionate to the (DP World Tour’s) continued operation as a professional golf tour”.
Pelley welcomed the decision.
“We are delighted that the panel recognised we have a responsibility to our full membership to do this and also determined that the process we followed was fair and proportionate,” he said.
“In deciding the level of these sanctions last June, we were simply administering the regulations which were created by our members and which each of them signed up to.”
The PGA Tour, in a decision released moments after play in the lucrative breakaway series’ inaugural event last June, suspended members who played in the LIV Golf event and said anyone else who makes the jump will face the same fate.
Critics have said the $255 million LIV series is a vehicle for Saudi Arabia to try and improve its image in the face of criticism of its human rights record.
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Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris
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