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May 29, 2016
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much for your attendance with us this morning, the final day of the 2016 BMW PGA Championship. Obviously delighted to be joined this morning by Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour.
Those of you here last year will remember Keith joined us for a couple of days before taking up the post of Chief Executive on August the 3rd. It's been exciting nine months for all of us with a lot going on, and we've also got a lot to look forward to in the future.
To talk a bit about that and everything else that's going on, Keith Pelley.
KEITH PELLEY: Thanks, Scott. Good morning, everybody, and you're right, it's completely different than it was a year ago, first and foremost before I start, I see our chairman, the chairman of The European Tour, David Williams is here, and our Chief Operating Officer, Keith Waters is here, as well as David MacLaren.
David MacLaren, who I can always pick out because he wears that bright red tie. David has recently taken over the role as head of the Senior Tour, and so if you are looking for anything in terms of the transformation of The Senior Tour, which is something that is a critical part of our future and something that's important to us, by all means, talk to David MacLaren.
Beside him is Richard Hills. Richard Hills is our managing director of The Ryder Cup. Obviously this is a pretty important day from a Ryder Cup points perspective and from a team side. There's no question that both he and Darren Clarke will be watching the outcome of what transpires this afternoon very, very closely. And of course, at the back, we have Tim Hunt, our head of marketing, and Jonathan Orr, our head of finance.
So if, in fact, any additional information is needed or questions, by all means, you have a plethora of experienced people that can answer any of your questions.
Thank you very much for taking a couple of minutes to be with us here this morning. It is quite different than last year. It's been a little bit busier. I haven't spent as much time with my boy, and it's been a series of meetings. But I think that we've made significant progress.
First, I did want to just talk about the tournament. I'm incredibly impressed with what has happened over the last number of days. I would never have imagined that the Concert Series that we created would have as much success as it did last night. When there were more than 5,000 people jumping to -- I had to Google a couple of songs to be totally honest with you, because the last one I didn't quite know; and I am of that vintage. But it was terrific.
And then hearing the sound check last night for Tom Chaplin, which is a little bit more of a younger band, was sensational. The village is off the charts terrific. It seems to grow more and more every year, and that combined with the golf has really been a special week.
I said to somebody the other day, I was mesmerised when I came in on Wednesday morning and saw it was three-deep at the first tee at the Pro-Am. The combination of 77 celebrities with our top players playing made for more than 20,000 people attending the Pro-Am, which is unheard of and is something that I have not seen in my first nine months.
So we are very thrilled with it, very excited about the finish. Can't wait to see the afternoon unfold, and it promises to be a great afternoon of golf.
A lot has been said about Wentworth, so I did want to address that firsthand. Wentworth, as you know, is majestic and has an aura about it that is simply astounding. And when you drive up and see the magical building, you quickly become inspired.
So we have every intention to be at Wentworth for a long period of time. This is the home of the BMW PGA Championship. BMW have been nothing short of spectacular partners every step of the way in growing this event. But there are two things that have to happen to make that a reality.
No. 1, and I'm confident that we can achieve this, but we need to come to an agreement with the Wentworth Residents Association, with the Roads Committee and the Wentworth Club. We've had a trying three or four months as you're all aware of, and I think it speaks volumes of the quality of the residents on this property and the way that they have actually taken to this tournament after what has been a very tough couple of months for them, and embraced it over the last 72 hours, and that is a testament to all of them. And I'm confident that we can come to that resolution.
The second thing that has to happen is we have to significantly improve the golf course. And when I say we, it really is Reignwood. And I did have the privilege of recently visiting Beijing, and Reignwood's property, Pine Valley, and spending a tremendous amount of time with Dr. Chanchai; and I have complete confidence in Dr. Chanchai, Mr. Ni and Stephen Gibson that they are on the right track to bring this golf course back to the Harry Colt feel that he had designed it with the concept of angles and playing it in the air or on the ground, and they are prepared to invest in it.
Dr. Chanchai was an incredibly impressive individual, and his commitment -- actually, when I walked into his office, he had a massive picture of his golf course in Pine Valley, and I'm talking, maybe twice the size of the Luke Donald picture there, right beside it was his treasured asset that he has in Hawaii, and right square in the middle of those two was Wentworth.
He has committed to not only creating what I believe is to be a world-class golf course; but I think he is committed to building something special on the entire piece of property, and the golf course, in particular, where our interest lies, is a golf course that we believe our top players will want to play in year over year.
As I said, this is where we want to be. Those are the two areas of concentration, and I'm confident that we can come to a resolution on both.
My first year has been interesting. I sure wish I could share some of our plans with you, but they will be revealed in the near future. But the two areas that we're focusing on is one, our schedule, not only the 2017 but the 2018 schedule. Our goal is really to make it have far more travel-ease on the players, as well as more playing opportunities for some of our lower-ranked members.
There has been a challenge this year when we lost the African Open, when we lost the Madeira Island Open; that some of the Q-School and some of The Challenge Tour players, had a tough time playing early on in the season. It is something that has not gone unnoticed. It is very critical to us. We are working very feverishly in fixing this and creating additional tournaments, and we are confident that our 2017 schedule will be significantly stronger than our 2016.
At the same time, the other thing that we have been -- and a lot of you have asked me about it, is obviously the migration of some of our top players to the US. That is another key component of our strategy going forward, is providing the best golf courses for our players to play on, the best golf experiences and to increase the prize funds.
As I said, I wish I had more information to give you. We do have plans to do such as early as 2017, rolling out a really robust strategy by 2018, and you'll hear of that in the near future.
How important the golf course is, was certainly explained to me when we event to Valderrama and when I ran into Martin Kaymer at Augusta and Martin stopped me and said, "I was planning to go to Hilton Head, but as soon as I heard about Valderrama, I changed my plans and went to Valderrama."
When you talk about the prize fund, again, what you have to do is understand at the US tour, they are playing for 6.5 to 7.5 million every week, and for our young players, that is a great opportunity to make significant dollars.
So if we can combine the fact of playing on some great golf courses with increased prize funds, and give our golfers great experiences, I'm confident that our players want to play here. Our players have said that to me. Everything that we do, we do with a "PLAYERS FIRST" philosophy, and everything that we do, we do with consulting our players.
I guess probably that's the thing that surprises me the most is how willing our players have been wanting to help, willing to share their thoughts, being part of the actual vision. And many of them have said, "I'd prefer not to play in the US if you can provide this, this and that."
We are working very closely with our players and working on a real comprehensive business plan to address those two areas.
And the third is, and you may have seen it, is we've certainly revamped our entire philosophy toward content generation. I strongly believe that we are in the entertainment content business where golf is but our platform and our players are the theatre; but we are in the entertainment content business, and you're starting to see us have an incredible concentration on developing high-end quality content that can be distributed across multiple platforms.
Our linear broadcasters are critical to us and we are innovating with them with the likes of SKY, all our broadcasters across the world, but digitally and socially is a very key component to us and it's an area where the board has approved us to spend millions of dollars in and you're starting to see us reap the benefits.
You saw on Facebook Live this week, I think we are at 5 million impressions already, or uniques on Facebook Live. You saw the fastest par 5, which was the first week I think we had ever beaten the PGA Tour from a social media perspective.
So we are going to be very, very aggressive, very ambitious in the actual digital and the social media space while still remaining -- still a strong understanding of the need to improve our overall content on the linear platforms, as well.
So with that, I'll take some questions. I first and foremost wanted to say two final things. Thank you to all of you. Again, I wish that this room was bigger. I wish that more people wrote and covered our game. Hopefully if we can continue to create riveting content that resonates with every different income tax bracket, every different ethnic group and every different demographic, then more editors will cover it. It's something that I appreciate. We are now distributing our content as much as we possibly can, because as I said, we are in the content business, so thank you for coming.
And the second thing I just wanted to say was, I'm absolutely so appreciative of the partnership from BMW and what they have put forward, not only to this particular tournament, and not only to the BMW International, and not only to The European Tour; but their support to golf globally is incredible. Their grass roots program is terrific. They have been a wonderful partner here this week at the BMW, and we look forward to continuing that partnership for many years.
So thank you for taking time. I'll take a couple of questions, but hopefully you'll enjoy what will be a spectacular afternoon, and I hear that the weather is going to, the skies are going to open up and we are going to have sunshine for the fourth straight day, so thank you very much.
Q. I know you can't divulge too much, but these tournaments you're rolling out, will they be in Europe or different parts of the world?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, we are definitely a global tour. We play in 27 different countries in five continents of the world. If we were to look at increasing prize funds, we would look to do some in Europe and some outside of Europe, as well.
We are truly a global tour and we will act as such with every decision we make.
Q. And regarding this tournament, why don't you just cut your losses and run? Because it's clear the players don't want to come; they don't like the golf course; there's enough classic golf courses around that area that players would be attracted to. Why not just move it around like it used to do?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, I think, Alistair, I would disagree. There are a lot of wonderful golf courses. But this is a pretty spectacular venue to be able to put on the actual event that we do.
As you know, not only in golf, but in all different sporting events now, they are just that; they are sporting events. They are more than just the actual competition; they are happenings, and this provides just a wonderful back drop and landscape to put on such a wonderful event.
In terms of the golf course, you are right, and that is a critical component to it. We have been open with that. I've talked to a number of players, and you all know that there are a number of players that aren't here because they don't want to play this golf course.
I'm convinced, I'm confident, worked closely with Keith Waters, who has been involved every step of the way as a former pro for 18 years, and we're confident that what Reignwood has planned will bring this back to the Harry Colt design and the Harry Colt magic that once made this the place where players want to play.
You just have to walk into that actual clubhouse and see all the players on the walls that have played here, and we're convinced that if Reignwood can bring this golf course back to where it was originally designed with some modern modifications, then our top players will want to play; and I know that. We've had those conversations.
Q. When you speak about bringing the course back to sort of Harry Colt-style, that implies some serious changes, such as getting rid of the 18th, bringing it back to what it used to be. Is that what you're talking about, and if so, what's the time scale for those kind of changes?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, what I can tell you is that those questions, in terms of the actual details of the actual designs will be more suited for Stephen Gibson, the CEO of Wentworth.
We have been privy to the actual architectural designs. We understand them. It is not for us to reveal them. I can only tell you that we're confident in the actual design and where they are actually moving towards. And I know that the financial commitment from Reignwood is there.
I do also know that the bulldozers are starting to come in, I think it's a week Tuesday. So this is something that is of the highest priority for them.
But the actual detail of the architectural design would be better suited for Stephen Gibson.
Q. So just to follow up, the changes will be made in time for the tournament next year, to be hosted at the same time?
KEITH PELLEY: That is the intention.
Q. You mentioned also the issue with the residents. How close are you to agreeing to resolving the issues with the residents?
KEITH PELLEY: There was a number of exchanges between the Residents Association, the Roads Committee, the golf club and ourselves about congregating shortly after the tournament, doing a full debrief. The residents did a survey, and the majority of the residents would like the golf tournament to continue.
I think it is, again, it's a wonderful place to have a world-class golf tournament like this. I've been to a lot of events all over the world and to see that village and to see the majestic background of Wentworth is stunning.
So we're going to get together shortly afterwards and I'm confident that we'll come to an arrangement.
Q. What would it take for this to be called the Flagship Event again?
KEITH PELLEY: This is a premium event, will always be a premium event. Our goal is to have a number of premium, world-class events, such as this. We're confident that in our plans over the coming months, we're going to reveal such.
We have world-class partners like BMW and Rolex, and for us, what is important is that we have more premium events that we can bring our partners like this, and we plan to grow this event. But this will not be the only event that we grow, and that I think will elevate not only the entire tour, but the value for the likes of, as I said, Rolex, the BMWs and so forth.
Q. Despite the fact that you haven't got McIlroy and Stenson and these people here this week, the crowds show that there is an amazing appetite for a major golf tournament in England. The Tour have been terrific in taking golf around the world, but the crowds here show that you can maybe have at least another one in England, which could be successful.
KEITH PELLEY: You could have another one, and we've talked about that. The success last year of the British Masters certainly showed the appetite of the golfers and the fans in England.
They are also incredibly knowledgeable, which is great. Having travelled across the world, it's great to see what how the Irish fans, the Scottish fans and the English fans know the game and know it so well and appreciate it. So there could be room for another event. I will tell you that is something that we have discussed but we have no concrete plans at this place.
But again, you know, it started on Wednesday and I was delighted with the turnout with the Pro-Am. We had the putting challenge, which we had a magical moment when a young boy kept -- I'm not sure who they kept in it -- Jamie Redknapp and Ben-An, and that will be revised to make it a little quicker going forward. But the fans are knowledgeable. They are educated and they come out in droves, and hopefully they will all be out today to see a spectacular finish.
Q. Having been at The Irish Open a couple weeks ago and speaking to Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free, they seem to be very keen to develop The Irish Open significantly and perhaps go later in the season towards times of The Scottish Open and the Open. Is there anything to say about that at the moment?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, Dubai Duty Free have been a terrific partner and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open was a great success last week at The K Club.
Again, we are looking at our schedule that makes the most sense for our players and makes the most sense for our partners. There are a lot of variables to take into that, i.e., moving different promoters and different events out of those, and those discussions are underway now.
Having the Dubai Duty Free back-to-back with the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and having an event in Ireland and Scotland back-to-back leading into The Open Championship would make a lot of sense, and that is something that we have had dialogue about. But again, at this particular time, nothing concrete to announce.
Q. Regarding the greens this week, they are very, very bad. So is there any apology to the players like they did in Sawgrass.
KEITH PELLEY: Well, this will be the last year of these greens. They are going to change the greens. Again, that would be conversations for Stephen Gibson. I know they are going to put in a SubAir system, so the greens will change dramatically. The bulldozer comes in, again, a week Tuesday.
I've heard all the comments last year about the greens when I came here, having not taken this position. I've read about them for a number of years. I think as Alistair alluded to early, the golf course is a challenge here. That's something that Wentworth is totally aware of, Reignwood is aware of, our players are aware of.
And I think if we can create this golf course the way that they want to build it, not only will the players come, that, with the venue and everything else that we've created, its level of importance on the world stage will just increase.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much for your attendance this morning. Keith, thank you for yours, enjoy the final day of the BMW PGA Championship.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports