Economic impact of 2021 PGA Tour event tallied as doubts grow over 2022 tournament’s star power
The Bermuda Tourism Authority is studying an economic impact report from last October’s PGA Tour Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
The report lays out economic benefits from the professional golf event held under the auspices of the PGA Tour and the FedEx Cup.
Officials are on the verge of making the impact study public, even as they face concerns that this year’s event could be less beneficial than the 2021 tournament held in the shadow of the Covid pandemic.
Expectations were low last autumn because professional sport had not yet welcomed back live audiences. The Bermuda event was the test for a limited return to a live “gate” for pro golf and the return from the distractions and concerns of the pandemic.
But now, outside influences, including geopolitical events and inconvenient scheduling, may conspire to threaten the impact to Bermuda for the 2022 event.
The imminent 2021 report will lay out how the community as a whole benefited, how much money the tournament was thought to bring into the Bermuda economy, how much it generated in direct and indirect spending and what benefit was derived by charities and other community groups.
The KPMG study into the first PGA Tour/FedEx Cup event in 2019 revealed 10,660 in attendance, of whom 20 per cent were visitors; an estimated direct economic impact of $7.8 million which generated an additional $10.6 million impact on the economy through indirect and induced effect; together with international media exposure valued at $4.2 million.
More than $18.5 million is estimated as the overall impact on Bermuda’s GDP for the first, somewhat hastily organised, tournament.
The PGA Tour prides itself on ensuring that its events have a positive benefit on the communities in which its events are held.
Not-for-profit tournaments under the PGA Tour umbrella donate their net proceeds to support local organisations, totalling more than $3.37 billion to date.
It was estimated that between $750,000 and $1 million in charitable benefits may have been made available to the Bermuda community for the week of the tournament.
The original agreement was for the tournament to be in Bermuda for five years through 2023, beginning with the debut in 2019 as the PGA Tour’s first official event on the island. But this year it faces the potential of being squeezed in among other, larger tournaments that may substantially limit the number of marquee players it attracts and limit the amount of attention it generates.
Part of the problem is an attempt to mount a rival league to the PGA Tour, seeking to attract touring professionals to other prestigious events.
The controversial LIV Golf is financed by Saudi Arabian money, and the organisers have just been accused by Amnesty International of attempting the “sportwashing” of their image because of their alleged shoddy human rights record.
However, their planned events in the autumn make it difficult to attract name golfers to Bermuda, especially as there is another major event around the same time — all with far greater prize purses than that offered in Bermuda.
Oct 14-16: LIV Golf Series, Jeddah, prize purse $25 million (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia).
Oct 20-23: Bermuda Championship, prize purse $6.5 million (Southampton, Bermuda).
Oct 27-30: WGC-HSBC Champions, prize purse $10.5 million (Shanghai, China).
Oct 26-30: LIV Team Championship, prize purse $50 million (Miami, Florida).
While many of the world’s top golfers will forgo the additional money and remain with the PGA Tour-sanctioned events, the tour is so concerned about the competition it has refused to provide exemptions for members to play in LIV events.
That may lead to an antitrust issue in the courts, as players have always considered themselves to be independent contractors and not controlled by the tour.
Many of the world’s best golfers may skip Bermuda for the long trip to China for the prestigious, limited-field WGC event.
But that event may also have problems with global concerns about China’s human rights record and issues relating to the Covid pandemic.
The Royal Gazette asked the BTA and Butterfield about all of these issues, and while it is clear that both organisations have some concerns, they were reluctant to get deeply into the issues.
The BTA has not yet responded.
Butterfield would not comment on the logistical travel challenges for the top players to get to Bermuda, the substantial monetary divide that may keep them away, nor the total effect this can all have on the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
A Butterfield spokesman responded: “We are looking forward to the upcoming 2022 Butterfield Bermuda Championship this October and preparations are under way.
“Last year was a great success. We created opportunities for our clients, including Butterfield Mastercard cardholders, and importantly helped to increase the event’s community impact with the Birdies for Charity programme reaching $650,000.
“For Butterfield specifically, as part of our three-year partnership with the PGA Tour, we are able to unite our core banking markets with competitive customer events in the Cayman Islands and the UK Channel Islands.
“Our first event in Cayman went incredibly well earlier this month and we look forward to welcoming the winners to Bermuda later this year.
“Local charities wanting to register for this year’s Birdies for Charity programme can do so now via the official website www.butterfieldbdachampionship.com/birdies-for-charity/.”