Sports

No Tour merger, but an alliance

Asia's biggest golf Tour has formed a "strategic alliance" with Europe that could pave the way for more co-sanctioned tournaments being held on the continent, the two bodies announced yesterday.

The alliance follows a period of negotiations, which began last August, between the two circuits who will now both be invested in expanding playing opportunities in Asia and the rest of the globe.

The two Tours will have a new joint office in Singapore, but will retain their own separate identity in terms of brand and logo, and will be managed by their own individual boards.

"Following successful discussions over the past year to develop our joint vision, we are delighted to announce this 'Strategic Alliance'," Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said.

"We have enjoyed a very strong and prosperous relationship with the Asian Tour over the past 17 years, and this formalises that partnership, representing an exciting new era in our association."

The Malaysian Open in 1999 was the first co-sanctioned Tour between the two organisations, which have since conducted 95 such tournaments.

PLAYER CONCERNS

Talks on the expected union appeared to be in trouble in December when Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr resigned for unspecified reasons, following player concerns about limited opportunities on the combined circuit.

In December, after Kerr's departure, the old Asian Tour board of directors, including former European Tour chief Ken Schofield, was ousted.

Four Asian businessmen were voted in as non-playing directors, three board player members were also removed and Kyi Hla Han was promoted from chairman to "interim Tour Commissioner".

Last year's Asian Tour featured only 12 stand-alone events with many more co-sanctioned with larger circuits such as the European, US PGA and Japan Tours, who all boast fuller schedules and bigger prize money.

"This is a positive step forward in our desire to further grow professional golf in Asia and around the world," Han said.

"We are also confident a greater collaboration between the Asian Tour and European Tour will deliver a stronger product to our partners and appeal to new sponsors to get involved with the game.

"The future looks very exciting for the Asian Tour and European Tour."

- Reuters.

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