The fall-out from Greg Norman’s controversial comments regarding the Jamal Khashoggi murder continues to play havoc with the launch of the Saudi rebel circuit with Alexandra Palace backing out of staging the glitzy “draft” party on the eve of the opening $25million tournament in St Albans in two weeks’ time.
Last week, LIV Golf, the entity running the $255million series, lost Sean Bratches, its chief operational officer, with the sudden departure of the highly-regarded official being put down to Norman saying “we’ve all made mistakes” at a press conference at the Centurion Golf Club a fortnight ago when asked about the State-approve murder of the dissident journalist.
Now, it seems that Alexandra Palace – the 149-year-old Grade II listed venue in North London controlled by Haringey Council – has also walked away from the bad publicity of being connected with Norman and the Saudis.
“I can confirm that the LIV golf series draw event is not taking place at our venue,” a spokesperson told Telegraph Sport, claiming, “we have a high number of organisations get in touch about holding potential events with us, but for commercial reasons we do not discuss details of these enquiries”.
Insiders insist that initially “Ally Pally” – famous for hosting the PDC World Darts Championships, as well as The Masters snooker tournament – agreed to stage the function.
Not only would players be in attendance as the 12 four-man teams were drawn, but there would be high-end cuisine on offer, with free drinks and entertainment, including DJs.
The night of Tuesday 7 June was to be so lavish, tickets were up for sale on the LIV website at $1,500 (£1,200).
But now there is no mention of the draft party on the website and it is unknown if they will scrap the festivities and just conduct a draw in a studio or if they will stage a pared-down event at the Centurion Club itself.
‘This was meant to be the grand curtain-raiser but it’s another kick in the teeth’
LIV Golf could not be reached for comment, but a well-placed source said: “This was meant to be the grand curtain-raiser and Ally Pally was thought to be the perfect venue, what with all its history and its reputation. Another kick in the teeth after Sean leaving.”
The news will inevitably only raise the pervading opinion of chaos behind the LIV scenes, with the start-up league scrambling to pull off this first tournament, as will the fact there has yet to be a single player officially announced.
In Hertfordshire two weeks ago, LIV stated a full field would be published this Friday, after the “marquee players” had been unveiled in the days before.
However, it is understood that the field will not be known until next week – ie the week before the three-day event tees off on Thursday, June 9 – with the likes of Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and world No 18 Louis Oosthuizen ready to defy orders from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour not to play.
LIV’s trump card, however, would plainly be if Phil Mickelson showed up. The 51-year-old has not played in nearly four months, skipping last month’s Masters and his title defence at last week’s USPGA.
In February, the six-time major winner calling the Saudis “scary motherf—— to deal with”, but declared that he was able to put aside the Kingdom’s “horrid” human-rights record in order to gain “once-in-a-lifetime” leverage over the PGA Tour in his long-running dispute over media rights.