Recent filing could force LIV to disclose political and public relations activities in U.S.
A filing last week with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by a public relations firm that had been hired by LIV Golf could lead to more scrutiny for the Saudi-backed league.
Gitcho Goodwin, a Boston-based firm, filed a registration statement with FARA last week after “further consideration” that “the Saudi [Public Investment Fund] occasionally oversaw [LIV Golf’s] public relations activities.”
According to the filing, Gitcho Goodwin – which no longer works with LIV Golf, according to the Wall Street Journal – drafted press releases and marketing brochures for LIV Golf and also provided media training for players. The agreement between the firm and LIV Golf began in February and included a $55,000 monthly retainer fee and one-time $125,000 bonus.
Gitcho Goodwin decided to file with FARA following a hearing in the U.S. District Court where a “Saudi attorney acting on behalf of the PIF stated that the PIF is ‘inextricably intertwined with the [Saudi] government such that [the PIF’s] objectives may be indistinguishable from the interests of the Saudi government.’”
After the hearing, which was part of the antitrust and counterclaim lawsuits between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, a magistrate judge ruled, “It is plain that PIF is not a mere investor in LIV; it is the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight and operation of LIV.”
LIV Golf has claimed it is an advocate for golf, not the government of Saudi Arabia and shouldn’t have to register as a foreign principal or agent; but critics claim Saudi Arabia has invested more than $2 billion according to court filings into the league as a form of “sport washing.”
Gitcho Goodwin’s filing with FARA, which requires agents of a foreign government to disclose their political and public relations activities in the U.S., could force LIV Golf, or the other firms it does business with, to register under FARA, which could be seen as a concession that the PIF is engaged in commercial activity through LIV in part for profit and in part for propaganda.
The antitrust and counterclaim lawsuits are currently mired in multiple discovery disputes, as well as a possible appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the current trial date is May 17, 2024.