Saudi-Backed LIV Golf Accused by IATSE of Stripping TV Production Workers of Healthcare and Other Union Benefits

Abraham Ancer of FIREBALLS GC plays a shot during the LIV Golf Invitational - Mayakoba at El Camaleon at Mayakoba
(Image credit: Photo by Juan Luis Diaz/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf is being accused by below-the-line labor union IATSE of stripping TV production workers of their healthcare and other union benefits. 

According to a statement published Wednesday (opens in new tab) by the International Alliance of Stage Employees, the well-funded upstart competitor to the PGA provided these benefits during its first season, but it is shifting its TV production to a non-union shop in its second campaign. 

"As it stands, the technicians behind LIV Golf’s telecasts are some of the few in major sports who do not receive health and retirement benefits despite providing world-class coverage," IATSE said in a statement. 

LIV Golf, which shows matches in the U.S. via a distribution deal with Nexstar Media Group's The CW and pays its own expenses for TV production, has not yet responded with a statement of its own. 

Backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), LIV Golf spent a reported $784 billion in its first season, most of it on poaching top PGA talent. 

Understandably, IATSE is leveraging this largesse in its advocacy for its union members. 

Saudi Arabia's PIF, the union said, "has seemingly bottomless pockets and no aversion to spending extravagant sums, seeing as the 2023 season of LIV Golf is projected to cost $1 billion. Five golfers alone account for more than half a billion dollars in guaranteed contracts, tournament purses are in the tens of millions, and players, caddies, and extended entourages receive lavish private flights. When one considers these factors, the technicians bringing these events to television should be getting wages and benefits up to industry standards. LIV Golf should ensure that its crews are taken care of, especially if it hopes to engender goodwill from the production community."

LIV Golf's controversial funding source has limited its television earnings potential. The CW is not paying a rights fee to show its matches. The new golf league and the network have a revenue-sharing arrangement , with LIV Golf  paying production expenses.

The CW reported that 3.2 million viewers saw the opening event for LIV Golf's 2023 season two weeks ago.

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!