Tuesday, 15 November 2016
European Tour, Chief Executive, Keith Pelley (r) announces the Rolex Series with Rolex Global Head of Sponsorship and Partnership, Laurent Delanney   (Getty Images)
European Tour, Chief Executive, Keith Pelley (r) announces the Rolex Series with Rolex Global Head of Sponsorship and Partnership, Laurent Delanney (Getty Images)

DP World Tour Championship, Dubai
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Keith Pelley
Laurent Delanney
Press Conference


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much for your attendance with us this morning on a very special day for The European Tour. It's always a special day in here for Dubai for us, but this is particularly special. It's my great pleasure to introduce to the floor the Chief Executive of The European Tour, Mr. Keith Pelley.

KEITH PELLEY: Good morning. This is a little bit more formal than we're used to. It's nice to see some familiar faces and such a great mix of international press that are here today. We wanted the room filled last year, and I think we've been able to do that.

Great to be in Dubai. There's something about Dubai that just makes you feel good and talking about feeling good, we're pretty excited about this weekend because we have four terrific champions in contention for The Race to Dubai here at the DP World Tour Championship.

When you think about what a great year we've had with Danny Willett, who won the Masters in 2016 on a spectacular Sunday; when you talk about great Sundays, you can't forget the epic battle between Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson at The Open Championship and Henrik obviously in contention; Rory McIlroy's great shot that he hit with a 5-wood on 18 to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, he's in contention; and what a 63 last week by Alex Noren becoming the first Swede to ever win four events in one year, and he's now the ninth-ranked player in the world and he's in contention.

Danny, Rory, Henrik and Alex, good luck to you this week. You know the weather is going to be fantastic, and let's hope we have a great battle.

And you can't mention to 16 without mentioning Justin Rose, a remarkable -- I see Peter Dawson and George O'Grady, who are definitely influential in bringing the Olympics back to golf, golf back to the Olympics. And what a great champion we had and a great ambassador in Justin Rose. So it was a fantastic 2016 and we look for a terrific finish to that this year.

2017 promises to be a really big year for us. There will be new innovations and new formats. There will be a new schedule that we will unveil this coming Sunday, and it will have more playing opportunities for our Members and new tournaments that we will unveil on Sunday. And there's no doubt that there will be a number of discussions that we will have around Ryder Cup qualification. And those conversations I would really appreciate if they occurred on Sunday, and I'll come back and answer any questions that need be on Sunday.

But today, we are here for one announcement and one special announcement, and without any further ado, I bring you, the Rolex Series.

(Video played).

KEITH PELLEY: Thank you. So let me tell you a little bit about what the Rolex Series is all about, and then I'll tell you why we're doing it, and then I'll open up the floor for questions.

So as you saw there, it's starting right now in 2017 with seven tournaments, but I'm going to caveat that by saying a minimum of seven tournaments. We expect to have eight or nine in 2017. We're currently under discussions with some other partners as we speak. So our goal is, eight or nine in 2017 with a goal of ten by 2018.

They are all a minimum of 7 million dollar prize purse, and I say a minimum because obviously the DP World is here at 8 million, and that is the threshold that we felt that was needed to produce something of a high-quality like the Rolex Series.

It is more than just money, though. It is a new product. We will have significantly enhanced content and a commitment to high-end content, more television production resources. We're going to invest millions of dollars into our production. More live television produced. Our digital team, and I see some of them over there, will be working 24/7 around the clock to produce creative content. Each Rolex tournament will have a robust marketing and promotional plan.

The on-site will feature interactive creativity. There will be more for the players, more for their families; the experience will be different. Simply put, the resources and all the resources for the Rolex Series for every tournament will be magnified.

And which then asks the question, why we are doing this? There are three reasons. The first reason, we believe that the success and the growth of a high-profile series like the Rolex Series will elevate our tour, its brand, and all other events. So that's No. 1.

Two, and we really strongly believe this, that we need a stronger content offering to enable us to reach larger audiences across multiple platforms, and that's what the Rolex Series is about.

And the third, we need a product that can grow and grow over time, that provides a strong financial offering for our young players so they don't have to go to the United States.

So that's what the Rolex Series is, and that's why we're doing it. This is a European Tour initiative, but there's no way that we could have achieved it without a long-standing partner like Rolex. Rolex has been the sponsor of The European Tour and have been part of golf for so many years.

The very first time that we discussed it with them, they loved the vision. They along with our players and our members and our staff have shaped this into what we believe is a transformational day and a transformational idea and a game-changer for The European Tour.

I will preface that this is in the infancy stages and will grow significantly, not only over the next year, but over the next multiple years as we build this with Rolex.

So now I would like to bring up the global head of sponsorship and somebody that was involved in it and shaped it with us based on his knowledge of the industry more than the golf industry, but as a sports icon, Mr. Laurent Delanney.

LAURENT DELANNEY: Thank you, Keith.

Good morning. On behalf of Rolex, I'm honored to be here together with Keith and with all of you showing our support of The European Tour and its vision for the future.

Rolex, across junior, amateur and elite levels is devoted to golf's development worldwide and to inspire future generations of the sport.

Since 1967, when Arnold Palmer became the first Rolex testimony, Rolex has been present with an unwavering support of the game, promoting the values of excellence, sportsmanship and innovation, always with the game's best interests at the forefront.

Throughout this journey, Rolex is proud to have been associated with the most gifted players, outstanding tournaments and the most respected organisations safeguarding this great game.

Our partnership with The European Tour is one we have nurtured with great purpose and care since 1997 in collaboration with a dedicated staff of the Tour.

At this same venue in 2013, Rolex proudly announced the long-term extension of our position as the Official Timekeeper of The European Tour, a commitment that we made to support the future of the Tour, and its development of some of the world's finest golfers.

It's there for with great pleasure that Rolex today reinforces this long-standing partnership, now in its 20th year by supporting the Rolex Series.

This is a significant and innovative advancement in professional golf and will create a compelling new European Tour schedule for players and golf fans around the world. At Rolex, innovation is in our DNA, so it's fitting that we support this pioneering new initiative.

Our commitment to The European Tour and to the growth of the game worldwide is once again reaffirmed with this announcement. We look ahead to 2017 and beyond with confidence in the bright future of the Rolex Series and The European Tour, and proud to play our part in the promotion of the exceptional spirit of golf as we reach our 50th year in the sport.

I wish you all an exciting end to the 2016 season here at Jumeirah Golf Estates and a very pleasant week. Thank you very much. (Applause).

KEITH PELLEY: Also delighted that came out of the creation of the Rolex Series, to announce another initiative, and the introduction of what I call and what we call the Access List.

What is critical for us is that we want young players to aspire to play in the Rolex Series, and in order to do that, we felt after significant dialogue with our tournament committee and other members, that we had to create a second Money List that runs concurrently with The Race to Dubai.

And here is how it works: The second Money List will include all our tournaments, except for the Rolex Series, the WGCs, the Masters and the PGA Championship. It will include The Open and the U.S. Open, because those are events that our members can qualify for.

So the way that you become a member of the Tour on the Access List, if you finish in the Top-10 -- so 2017, we will be creating this Access List, like I said, that runs concurrently with The Race to Dubai, and the Top-10 players on the Access List will get their full Tour card. And that means the 110 on The Race to Dubai list moves to 100.

So we have 100 on The Race to Dubai and ten on the Access List, which will make up our 110 members in 2018.

For 2017, the members on the Access List, the top three members of the Access List will qualify for the BMW PGA Championship the week before. And as an example, they will qualify for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and they will qualify a new three, depending on when that cutoff is the week before The Italian Open.

This is something that we heard from our members, because with a difference in terms of prize level, from our Rolex Series to our other events, it was critical that our categories 13, 14, 15 and 16, our Challenge Tour players, our Q-School players, had a pathway, had a dream, when they actually received their card; that they could aspire to be part of the Rolex Series.

So happy to answer any questions on that. So in ending, I would like to say thank you for your patience. You've all heard that this concept that has been talked about for many months. It's something we did shape with our players, with our tournament committee, with the guidance of the likes of Thomas Björn and Paul McGinley, with our partners of Rolex, with our Chief Operating Officer Keith Waters, who played 18 years on the Tour, and certainly has brought a wealth of experience to these discussions.

But I want to say that we do believe this is the start of something special for our tour. We talked about building on George's legacy last year, and I believe and with having George here, it is such a great vote of confidence for us.

I think this is the natural next step for us. This is in the infancy stages. This will evolve. This will get larger and larger, but I'm excited that we're launching it in 2017. I do believe it's a game-changer for us, and we couldn't have a better partner that's supporting us in everything that we do with Rolex.

Congratulations to everybody that's involved in this. Thank you to Raul and your team, and happy to answer questions about the Rolex Series today. Thank you (applause).

Q. The thing about the FedEx Series, is it's short, it's sharp and it builds week by week. How are you going to maintain the traction of this over, if my arithmetic is correct, seven months?
KEITH PELLEY: At that particular time, yes. So as I said, this will evolve. But the whole critical component for us with the Rolex Series is that we wanted a season-long narrative and we wanted something that could tie all our seasons together.

So when you look at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, preluded by the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open leading into The Open Championship with the Dubai Duty Free Irish first and the Aberdeen Scottish second, that is a perfect opportunity for us to be the dominant player in golf at that particular time.

And we wanted a season-long narrative that takes us all the way from the BMW PGA Championship all the way to the DP World Tour Championship. Now, as I said, this will grow over time and it could grow even more in 2018, but we definitely wanted a narrative that went all the way through.

And I think it will still build with The Race to Dubai and Dubai being such a terrific partner, and The Race to Dubai with Rolex being involved in the rankings, I think this give us a bigger platform to build on that, and I do believe we'll hit our stride and momentum as we get to Turkey, as we get to South Africa and as we get to Dubai.

Q. I wanted to ask, is there something that ties the Rolex Series together? Is there some kind of a bonus pool just dedicated to the Rolex Series? And what happens to the bonus pool at The Race to Dubai? Is that going to continue?
KEITH PELLEY: In long conversations with Rolex and our friends at Dubai and with Peter Dawson, who is obviously very involved in Dubai now, it was critical, and all three partners felt that the bonus pool should continue. We will discuss how we increase it over time, but it will continue.

And in terms of the actual Rolex Series, the Rolex Series will have obviously more points and more Race to Dubai points just based on the nature of the size of it and the difference in terms of the prize purse with the other events. So it will be more important to The Race to Dubai.

But the two are absolutely intertwined in every possible way.

Q. So is there any plans of how you get your membership to play these seven tournaments? Is it some kind of a binding clause that you're going to put on your membership that you have to play five Rolex Series events or four Rolex Series events?
KEITH PELLEY: Our membership criteria will stay the same. There was dialogue about that. There was dialogue both internally, there was dialogue with Rolex, there was dialogue with our tournament committee.

We chose at this particular time to stay with our criteria, five, so there won't be any specific requirement for our players to play the Rolex Series.

We believe that in discussions with our players at every level, this is something they are incredibly excited about; that they have supported, and I do believe that, as I said, it will grow over time. It will be more than just the money. It will also allow us to showcase some of the incredible cities and some of the incredible venues that we come to.

And hopefully with now a threshold of a minimum of 7 million, and everything else we're adding, that we will encourage some other players of the Top-50 to come and experience The European Tour and the magic of it, and some of the magic that you've seen over the last two weeks. Antalya was just an absolutely spectacular destination. You saw the camaraderie when Thorbjørn Olesen won, and Søren Kjeldsen and Lucas Bjerregaard were right there to toast champagne. You saw it last week, again, when the celebration happened with Alex Noren, and David Lingmerth and Henrik Stenson were right there to toast him with champagne. That's the magic of The European Tour, and we want to showcase that and the Rolex Series allows us to do so.

Q. How long is the sponsorship for?
KEITH PELLEY: At this particular time, we're not disclosing any details of the actual terms of the agreement, but it is a multi-year deal, and gives us significant runway to build it over time.

Q. And just to be clear, this replaces The Final Series? The Final Series is no more?
KEITH PELLEY: That would be correct.

Q. Just a question regarding the Rolex Series, how many events?
KEITH PELLEY: As I said, we are confirming seven events right now and we are discussing for an eighth and ninth potential event, when we have more information and hopefully that will come in the coming weeks. We will disclose that ASAP.

Q. So related to that, you might not be able to say what they are but obviously this doesn't start until May and you have some big tournaments at the start of the year in January in this part of the world. Any plans to include those as part of the Rolex Series?
KEITH PELLEY: At this particular time, obviously all the events in the Middle East in Dubai here and in Abu Dhabi and in Qatar are critical events for us, and very good events at the beginning of the year, that certainly showcase our members and a lot of U.S. players get to experience our great events.

At this particular time, this, the Rolex Series, will kick off at the BMW PGA Championship. In future years, anything's possible.

Q. I was just wondering if you can tell us how has been the response of the various sponsors that have been partners of yours? There is already a Race to Dubai banner they are playing under, and now there will be Rolex, as well, kind of sharing the limelight. How has been their uptake on this and how have they been supportive to the Tour?
KEITH PELLEY: Are you saying Dubai?

Q. Not just Dubai. Dubai will be very happy because it's the Race to Dubai but. How about say the BMW or other tournaments?
KEITH PELLEY: And you see Freddie here from BMW. BMW have known about this for some time.

Obviously the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this year will be raised to a different level, and I think in all our discussions, BMW is quite excited to be part of it, as is Dubai Duty Free, as is the Aberdeen Asset Management, our partners that are all part of it are very excited.

I think Dubai and The Race to Dubai will grow, because I believe that the Rolex Series, with everything that we're doing in terms of enhancement content creation, enhanced television, longer television, will raise to a new level. So I think this is a win/win for everybody.

Q. A significant part of the international calendar for The European Tour also exists in Asia. Certainly the purses there are much smaller than the 7 million that you have for the Rolex Series. What kind of a future does those events have, say, events like in my country, India; Thailand, China, Malaysia?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, the Indian Open is a very important part of our schedule. And as I said, I do believe that we needed to create a product that would drive consumption, awareness, our brand to a different level. And I believe that's what the Rolex Series will do, and that will elevate the entire tour, as well as all the other events that are part of it; so like the Indian Open.

Asia is an important market for all of us. We had a good meeting about the Rolex Series with Josh Burack, who is CEO of The Asian Tour. He's coming over and spending a couple of days in the next month or two; we'll continue to have those conversations.

But I do believe that all of the other events will raise with the addition of the Rolex Series and the creation of the Access List, I think is very important for those tournaments, as well.

Q. In terms of the 7 million threshold for the tournaments that have not currently been at this level, where is that extra money coming from?
KEITH PELLEY: In terms of?

Q. The tournaments that have not been at that 7 million prize fund until now, how are they getting to that point?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, we, along with Rolex, are bringing them up to 7 million.

Q. Not just the sponsors of those tournaments?
KEITH PELLEY: At this particular time, we along with Rolex are bringing those tournaments to that level.

Q. I don't know exactly how long it's been around, but The Final Series hasn't lasted very long. Are you disappointed that it basically didn't take off and didn't work, and that you've had to come up with something else?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, I wouldn't say that it didn't work. We had to make a decision because you need to build on brands. We felt that the creation of the Rolex Series combined with The Race to Dubai, were the best two brands that we could build, and we didn't want to create any confusion in the marketplace.

And so I wouldn't say at this particular time it's a case of it not working. It was just a case of this particular time, we decided we needed to streamline what brands that we were going to build and we were going to promote.

Q. Did you look at the schedule on the American tour with these events, not to overlap, and to attract the Americans players to come to Europe, as well?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, we obviously focus on our tour and the development of our tour. However, sure, we have looked closely at the U.S. tour and other tours, and strategically selected them as where we think is the best position at this time.

Q. Access List, Rolex Series, Race to Dubai; are you not in danger of convoluting the European Tour? How are you going to sell this to the public? They like things quite simple. This is quite convoluted.
KEITH PELLEY: You know, I don't think the Rolex Series and The Race to Dubai are at all complicated. I think it's very, very simple to understand. The European Tour has the Rolex Series and The Race to Dubai.

The Access List, which we debated a lot about, whether that was a consumer-facing brand or a non-consumer facing brand, it will be a consumer-facing brand. But let's be totally candid: That will be for the actual diehards, all right. And that's fantastic, and it will be available. But.

The Rolex Series and The Race to Dubai will be the two brands that we build.

Q. How many of the seven events are you having to subsidise to bring up to the 7 million level, and why those events over, say, the French Open or Abu Dhabi?
KEITH PELLEY: We looked at the events that we thought would be at this particular time, the best chance to grow significantly. We believe we have something special with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and Rory's involvement.

If you take a look at the success last year of the top four players of The Open Championship, all played, J.B. Holmes, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson -- and who is the fourth, all played, the top four of The Open Championship, all played at The Scottish Open. We believe that, right behind The Open Championship, is a real jewel in our schedule. We thought that those were the best opportunities for us to create the most field and create the most magical content.

Q. Is it just those two events that you've subsidised of the seven?
KEITH PELLEY: I think all of our events, Rolex will be involved in, at a significant level, and I'll leave it at that.

Q. On that theme, again, of the Rolex Series and The Race to Dubai running alongside each other, you talk about this being in its infancy, is the future plan to perhaps turn it into the Rolex cup to rival the FedExCup and drawing players to The European Tour?
KEITH PELLEY: Those discussions have not happened right now. We are excited about the Rolex Series. We're excited about, to be honest with you, building on The Race to Dubai, and I think the exposure that the Rolex Series will give to the Race to Dubai will elevate that.

We talk a lot about that, and at this particular time, those are the two brands that we are going to build and I think everybody else comes along and wins with it.

Q. The subsidy for the events like the Scottish Open, is that a one-off, or it be more than one year?
KEITH PELLEY: I think the Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open are in a wonderful place in our schedule. They are magnificent events.

There's no doubt Dubai Duty Free has been a great supporter; Rory coming in has elevated The Irish Open. Martin Gilbert at Aberdeen Asset Management has been a terrific partner. These are special events for us and we want to build them, so I would say, emphatically not, that these would be a one-year. This is a multiple-year with Rolex and those are two critical events for us that we will build significantly over time.

Q. The two events, or rather three events, including DP World Tour Championship towards the end of the season, are limited-field events. The other events are full-field events. Is there any thoughts already going on to making Nedbank, as well as Turkish Airlines Open, full-field events?
KEITH PELLEY: Excellent question. So in 2017, the Turkish Airlines Open and Nedbank Golf Challenge and the DP World, at this particular stage, will all be together.

Moving forward, we are having very, very good conversations with the Turkish Federation, who have been just wonderful supporters of the game and of The European Tour, and Turkish Airlines, as well, have been a good partner with that event, the Turkish Airlines Open. Those events might change in 2018 and the actual number of players might change.

They might still change for 2017. That emphatically has not been decided. In fact, in meetings with players last night, that exact same question and that exact same dialogue in terms of the criteria for those, came up.

As I said, this is something that will evolve and change and with every evolution and with every change, we will inform you along the way.

Q. What was the reaction from players last night to the news that Patrick Reed is keeping his membership, despite playing only three events?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, Patrick, as I said, I will discuss any issue on Sunday. But in reference to Patrick, I haven't talked to any players last night; most of the players that I've talked about have been supportive. They would like Patrick to play in the Rolex Series.

Patrick is a member via category three based on his WGC win in 2014. So with the unfortunate circumstance that he didn't play in Turkey based on some of the discussions that we were having around security; but make no mistake about it, we want Patrick as the eighth player in the world, as do our players want him to play, in as many Rolex Series as they can, because obviously with him, brings a lot of World Ranking points.

Q. So if a player has such a category, they don't have to play any other -- they don't have to fulfill any other criteria to remain a member?
KEITH PELLEY: Yes, so Patrick, based on his exemption of winning a WGC in 2014, and having been a member in 2015 and 2016, he could automatically become one year a member in 2017.

Q. But does he then have to play five events going forward?
KEITH PELLEY: Yes, he does.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Keith, thank you very much. Raul, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the week.

 

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