Breakaway group promises better deal for the players

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 12:00am

The leader of the players' breakaway from the Asian PGA Tour yesterday promised more tournaments, more rewards for players and more development of the game in Asia. Hong Kong-based professional Kyi Hla Han said the players had voted unanimously to take control of their destiny after having their careers, and the game, stymied by political infighting within the Asian PGA Tour.

Han said the marketing arm of the Tour, a joint venture called ATL, had made sponsors 'extremely nervous' with injunctions and litigation between them. Some events had even been lost and players were fed up with the delays in receiving their prize money, Han said. 'We don't have a problem with the Asian PGA, but the marketing arm is controlling them and it doesn't work. And now with the injunction they put on our tour body, it wasn't in the best interests of the players. So we consulted the European Tour and others and they advised us that the whole structure was wrong,' said the former Asian Tour Order of Merit winner.

'In other tours, like the European Tour, they have the marketing in house. Ours wasn't. The players felt that the tour was going nowhere. We felt the marketing arm would stage a tournament only if it was profitable for them. But now small towns and cities all over Asia can put up a tournament.'

There are 17 or 18 events scheduled for this year, but Han believes there will be up to six new events. 'We are also trying to develop more relations with China,' he said. 'Golf is a fast developing sport in Asia, it's an exciting time. We want to get communities involved, like what the US Tour does for charity. We want to develop golf as a whole. We are happy to help with junior golf development in every country now that the players have a say.

'We have formed a new association, which is by the players for the players. We have their 100 per cent support. The players wouldn't have broken away unless we had the backing of the European Tour and the International Federation of PGA Tours, the governing body of the six golf tours ... our events will have world-ranking points.

'We have talked to all the major sponsors and we have five joint-sanctioned events with Europe [including the Hong Kong Open] and they fully support our new body.' Han said the marketing arm, a joint venture between World Sport Group and Parallel Media Group, had scared off potential promoters.

'We will accept them [ATL] as independent promoters,' Han said. 'But we control them, instead of them controlling us.

Han said the season would go ahead as normal, starting with the Thailand Open on January 21. 'All the tournaments are going to come on board. They are going to support whichever way the players go.

'We are not trying to own the rights of all the tournaments, we are inviting everyone to come on board and bring tournaments in. The sole purpose is to have more tournaments for the players.'

Han has played on the Asian Tour for the past 23 years, in Europe, Australia Japan and the US. 'We felt the other tours were treating us better than our own Tour.'

Han said their new body would be 'basically non-profit.' 'The aim is to have more tournaments and a better quality,' said the Myanmar-born veteran, who arrived back in Hong Kong yesterday after addressing the players in Singapore.

Han said the players' patience had worn out over the late payment of prize money. 'We know the sponsors had paid right away. It's been going on for the past couple of years. They have not taken care of players' rights or players' affairs as they promised to.'

Han has been voted in as chairman of the board of the new organisation. Other prime movers have been Rick Gibson (Canada), Amandeep Johl (India), Mardan Mamat (Singapore), Boonchu Ruangkit (Thailand), Hendrik Buhrmann (South Africa) and Gerry Norquist (US).


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