• Jon Rahm: "I don't play golf for money, but it's been a big factor"
  • Rahm's big leap will play the LIV Golf he so rejected

This summer, Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics signed the largest contract in NBA history: €280 million for five seasons, or €56 million per year. The announcement sparked a debate in the United States. If Brown, who is a very good player, but is not the star of his team, makes so much money, how much will Luka Doncic's renewal be in 2025? Many analysts believe that the former Real Madrid player could be the first to surpass the barrier of 75 million euros per year and mark a milestone in Yankee sport.

No one in the NBA has been paid that much, neither in the NFL nor in the MBL, the three leagues with the highest revenue from television rights above the Premier League or LaLiga. Well, Jon Rahm will earn €525 million from the LIV Golf circuit, €105 million per year, twice as much as Jaylen Brown and more than Doncic who negotiates what he negotiates. How is this possible?

Rahm's contract with the pre-owned golf competition is for several reasons, but the first is blatant: it is not sustainable and does not intend to be. The LIV Golf circuit is part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 project, led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, which aims to promote the country to get rid of its dependence on oil. The cost doesn't matter. Neither does income. In 2022, its first season, the almost clandestine tournaments of the LIV circuit spent 1,400 million from the Saudi Public Investment Fund and there was practically no return.

In the NBA, revenue is split 50/70 between owners and players, so contracts grow at the same rate as the league's economy. Something similar happens in the NFL or the MBL and even in European football thanks to financial fair play, although there are exceptions here. First, because players take approximately 555% of their clubs' revenues, more than LeBron James and company. And secondly because the regulations are flexible, hence Leo Messi's latest agreement with Barcelona, <> million for four years, as revealed by EL MUNDO. In LIV Golf, in any case, there is no relationship of any kind between earnings and salaries.

The second largest in history

That contract signed by Messi and Josep Maria Bartomeu in 2017 holds the record for being the most expensive in the history of the sport, although Rahm's recent pact with LIV Golf is already in second place. With the agreement between Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City for 420 million in fourth place - it was for 10 years, from 2020 to 2031 - the third and fifth places are also the work of Saudi Arabia: the 500 million from Al-Nassr to Cristiano Ronaldo for two and a half seasons and the 400 million from Al-Ittihad to Karim Benzema for two seasons.

Football is the spearhead of Saudi Arabia's global tourism expansion, although the country has also invested a fortune in Formula 1 and smaller amounts in sports such as mixed martial arts (MMA) or paddle tennis. His next targets are tennis, which is already planning a Masters 1000 in Riyadh, and winter sports, with the Neom ski resort, but golf remains essential in his project.

Luxury Tourists

The reason is the kind of audience Saudi Arabia wants to attract in the coming decades. Beyond mass tourism, the country seeks to be a reference for luxury tourists and they are usually interested in watching and playing golf. The economic value of the sport has never been in the number of fans it attracts, its global audiences are limited – the PGA Tour's broadcasting rights generate less than those of the MLS in soccer – for example, but it moves fans of a high purchasing power.

Hence the exaggerated investment in the LIV Golf, which, moreover, will not be forever. At first, Saudi Arabia's intention was to partner with the PGA Tour - as it has done with the ATP - but later decided to create its own competition due to the difficulties in reaching an agreement. Now, with the schism created in golf with contracts like Rahm's, the union between the two circuits should accelerate to become a fact soon.

  • Jon Rahm