Paid To Play – The Appearance Fee Debate

The debate has been raging for weeks now about whether or not players should be compensated for early-week corporate outings. The outcry began at the Ford Championship at Doral where Singh, Goosen, Garcia, and Harrington were paid handsomely by Ford to participate in a corporate outing on Monday.Since then, there has been controversy surrounding the event and the fact that IMG has put out a proposal letter listing prices for various players to participate in such activities.

I am having trouble understanding the basis of the argument against paying appearance fees. It benefits sponsors, players, and fans alike and can only help push the game to wider and wider audiences.

Let's start with the sponsors. To sponsor a PGA Tour golf event is no small task. It takes a great deal of money and organization to put together one of these tournaments. There are many events on the PGA schedule that get very little in the way of media coverage or audience interest. For a sponsor to be able to fork over an extra half-million dollars, when they are already paying millions, to attract some top ten players to a tournament is a guaranteed money making proposition. The big names are what draw the big audiences who in turn pay in the money. The more fans you can attract, the more money you can make. Bringing in more fans benefits the sponsors, the host cities, the television networks, the purses, and the players. I don't think Ford is kicking themselves over the decision they made to pay for an elite foursome to show up, and I don't think any other sponsors out there would either.

Players can benefit big-time from these paid-to-play events. Golf is one of the few sports where pay is based strictly on performance. If Peyton Manning throws three interceptions in a game and gets benched he still gets paid. If Tiger Woods misses a cut, he makes no money and pays out of pocket for all of his travel expenses. Why shouldn't golfers be able to make a little bit of guaranteed money once in awhile?

Fans clearly receive the biggest benefit from appearance fee tournaments. All of a sudden you have some of the big names playing in tournaments they have never played before. Can you imagine the interest that Tiger Woods could draw if he played in the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, or if Phil Mickelson were to play in the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee? These are the kind of tournaments that could gain substantially from an appearance by one of the Big Four. Fans would flock to the courses to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. These are cities and tournaments that don't normally get much media attention but would have the ability to do so with "appearance fees".

I just have a lot of difficulty figuring out who loses in this scenario. Why shouldn't a bunch of millionaires do all they can to help make each other richer?


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