LONDON: A pivotal arbitration hearing to determine the futures of LIV Golf players on the European Tour began on Monday (Feb 6) at the Sports Resolutions Arbitration and Media Centre in London.
An independent, three-member panel is overseeing the five-day hearing which is being held behind closed doors and will shape the fields on the European circuit, which has been rebranded as the DP World Tour, when a decision is released.
The hearing is focused on DP World Tour rules regarding conflicting events and its ability to enforce them on members who compete without permission in the breakaway LIV Golf series that is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
DP World Tour members who competed in the inaugural LIV Golf event last June despite not receiving permission received three-event suspensions and fines.
Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding challenged their suspension and won a stay from a British court last July that allowed them to compete in the Scottish Open.
The 13 players who are named as appellants for the hearing are Poulter, Otaegui, Harding, Patrick Reed, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Sam Horsfield, Richard Bland, Shaun Norris, Laurie Canter, Wade Ormsby and Bernd Wiesberger.
There were originally 16 golfers who were involved but Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace all withdrew their names from the hearing case.
DP World Tour media officer Scott Crockett, in a briefing with reporters two weeks ago, said the panel would deliver their verdict "several weeks" after the hearing has taken place.
"Will we appeal if we lose? Will they appeal if they lose? Will their players still be able to play on the tour if they are appealing? Unfortunately, the simple and honest answer to all of that is we don't know," said Crockett.
The PGA Tour, in a decision released moments after play in the lucrative breakaway series' inaugural event last June, suspended members who played the LIV Golf event and said anyone else who makes the jump will face the same fate.
Critics have said the US$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.