Adidas boss says LIV Golf a ‘normal evolution,’ wants to focus on player partnerships

Phil Mickelson of the United States during the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans, Great Britain on June 8, 2022

Paul Child | Action images via Reuters

Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted believes the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series is part of a “normal evolution” of sport and says the German sportswear giant will continue to focus on partnerships with individual players.

The PGA Tour has suspended many of its big names for their participation in the breakaway competition, which is in its inaugural season and has caused friction in the golf world after luring players in with huge fees.

LIV is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and critics accuse the series of serving to boost the kingdom’s image despite lingering concerns about human rights abuses and potential links to 9/11 plotters.

The PGA Tour is now facing an antitrust lawsuit from 11 players who joined the LIV series, including Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter, for their suspension from the traditional North American tour.

Golf legend and 15-time major champion Tiger Woods has turned down an offer in the range of $700-800 million to join LIV Golf, its CEO revealed on Monday, after expressing his disapproval of the series at The Open. Championship last month.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Thursday following Adidas’ quarterly earnings report, Rorsted said no decision has yet been made on whether the company will sponsor a team in Series LIV.

Asked about his take on the Rebels tour, he said: “We think it’s a normal evolution that’s going on, and ultimately it’s the bodies that have to decide what they do. We have the same conversation when you look at the Champions League or the World Cup with UEFA or FIFA.”

Rorsted added that Adidas wants to “remain a sponsor of the individual”.

“We have a very strong view of the players, and basically we want to make sure we partner with the best player – we think it’s as simple as that.”

Adidas posted a 28% year-over-year drop in second-quarter operating profit on Thursday as a suspension of operations in Russia, higher supply chain costs and Covid lockdowns -19 in China weighed on earnings despite continued strength in North America.

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