PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Along with the announcement on Tuesday that the PGA Tour has reached a new, 10-year agreement with FedEx to sponsor the circuit’s season-long points race came news that the deal includes a category exclusivity clause.
According to sources, the clause will keep players from participating in the season-long race if they have endorsement deals with one of FedEx’s competitors.
“All I'm going to say on that front is when you're in business with someone for 30 years, and you're about to commit to 10 more, you do some things to protect each other on a long-term basis,” commissioner Jay Monahan said. “That's what we've done in this agreement, and our players know that; our players understand it; our players think so highly of FedEx and what they've meant to them in terms of playing financial opportunities. So we do everything we can to protect our partners.”
Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen both have endorsement deals with UPS but have been grandfathered in and will not be impacted. Their manager, ISM’s Chubby Chandler, said he has not received any official correspondence from the Tour regarding the sponsorship status of either player.
“I’m grateful the two guys are alright and I understand why they [the Tour has] done it, [but] what will they do if MasterCard wants to do the same thing?” Chandler said. “It opens up a bag of worms. Do you go on the amount of money they pay or what? Do you set aside one sponsor for another sponsor? ... Legally, I can’t see how it works. The guys are independent contractors.”
Chandler, who planned to meet with Tour officials this week at TPC Sawgrass, said the European Tour had a similar agreement with Barclays a few years ago, but that lasted only a few years. He speculated that if the new FedEx rule doesn’t apply to non-members, majors, and World Golf Championships, it won’t be a problem.
The bigger issue is how this precedent may impact future negotiations with tournament sponsors, and if the Tour will be able to enforce such a rule. Tour players are independent contractors, but there are stipulations in the player handbook for certain types of sponsorships.
“Generally, all sponsorships must be tasteful and in accordance with standards of decorum expected of professional golfers. Sponsorships by companies whose business reputation or ongoing business activities may reflect adversely upon the image and reputation of the PGA Tour will not be approved,” the Tour policy reads.
Specifically, the policy addresses sponsorships with tobacco, alcohol, and casino and gambling companies, but not specifically companies that might be competitors of potential Tour sponsors.