Europe-Asia merger is ‘only way forward’, says Thomas Bjorn

Sport360 staff 14:03 14/12/2015
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Bjorn has backed the deal.

European Tour veteran Thomas Bjorn has described a proposed merger with the Asian Tour as "the only way forward", despite concern among some Asian players.

Bjorn, who is chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee which represents players' interests, said Asian players shouldn't worry about losing playing opportunities if the mega-tour goes ahead.

The proposal to combine the tours' business dealings and memberships could be a game-changer, but some Asian players are concerned about being squeezed out by European stars.

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However, Bjorn said the plan provided a great opportunity for Asian pros — and denied that Europe was trying to take over tournaments in the region.

"A merger is the only way forward," Bjorn said at the Thailand Golf Championship, which finished on Sunday.

"I appreciate some of the (Asian Tour) players are concerned, but they will actually benefit from it… It will provide a great opportunity for the young Asian players."

The merger talks have coincided with a shake-up at the Asian Tour, where CEO Mike Kerr's resignation was announced without explanation last week.

The body's board has also seen a change in personnel, although the Asian Tour has not responded to requests for confirmation when approached by AFP.

When asked about the merger situation, Indian veteran Jeev Milkha Singh said in Thailand: "We have a new board and we will wait to see what they recommend." 

Bjorn said a merged tour would be particularly good for younger players, who will benefit from tougher competition and the chance to play in Europe.

Including the four majors and four World Golf Championship events, the European Tour listed 48 tournaments on the 2015 season's schedule, while the Asian Tour had 28.

The two tours have a long history of cooperation, including co-sanctioning five tournaments in Asia this year.

"Talented Asian players like Thongchai (Jaidee) and Jeev had to change their style of play when they joined the European Tour," Bjorn said.

"They had to learn the hard way, but eventually they adapted because they are talented and they have done very well. A merger would speed up that process."

Bjorn added: "There is so much great talent in Asia with lots of young players coming through. If the young players join a combined tour they will learn a lot quicker. It will be great for them."

European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, who is spearheading the merger, flew to Macau in October to address a meeting of Asian Tour players. He later conceded some players are hostile, although negotiations are continuing.

But Bjorn stressed: "The European Tour are not trying to take over tournaments. We have a full schedule as it is. But the combined efforts of the two tours would make it very strong.

"Let's get it together. It will be good for all players concerned, both on the European and Asian Tour. The Asian Tour players need not worry. It's the only way forward."

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