Nearly 12 months since forming, the Oceania Golf Players Association (OGPA) has today announced its most significant step towards its stated goals of improving conditions and outcomes for its members and working closely with the local men’s and women’s Tours.
The group, which it is believed is the first ever golf players association in the mould of those representing the NFL, NBA, NRL and more, have been given collective bargaining rights from the Australian Competition and Consumer Tribunal (ACCC).
Sent this morning to its members and subsequently the PGA Tour of Australasia and WPGA Tour of Australasia, the announcement is a significant step for the group that was previously detailed here and was initially formed through player frustrations following the Covid affected cancellations of events like the Australian Open and a Tour schedule that has since grown.
The OGPA’s mission statement is available on its website (theogpa.com) while the publicly available ACCC notice details the purpose of the collective bargaining wishes of the group as follows:
- The terms and conditions of membership of the PGA and WPGA;
- The organisation and conduct of tournaments;
- Policies and procedures applicable to members of the PGA and WPGA;
- Entry requirements for tournaments;
- Prize money awarded during tournaments;
- Licensing and anti-competitive restrictions imposed upon professional golfers by the PGA and WPGA;
- Resources devoted to female and youth golf development by the PGA and WPGA; and
- Resources devoted to the promotion of golf in Australia.
“It is extremely rewarding, it has been a lot of work,” OGPA Player Director and Co-President Bryden Macpherson exclusively told Golf Australia magazine. “We have a large team and everyone has been contributing. We see this as the first threshold, this is something we needed to get to, it is worth celebrating, but it is only the beginning for us.
“Now that we have this recognition, we can actually start to work on behalf of the members and players to improve things for them. That is what this has all been about, it has been a lot of lead up and to get here is pretty special.”
The process of getting to this point that Macpherson mentions has been a bumpy road, with the formation initially creating a stir among the golfing world here in Australia, leading to PGA of Australia CEO Gavin Kirkman sending an email to members advising against joining the OGPA.
Kirkman’s email dated June 15, 2021 also stating “the PGA of Australia does not recognise the new organisation as having any official status and we understand it is not a registered organisation for the purposes of the Fair Work Act 2009.”
The latest development does not encompass Fair Work, the OGPA instead going down the ACCC route as it believes professional golfers as “independent contractors” rather than employees under contract are better suited in this way. The current situation also likely to save both the association and governing bodies money.
What it does appear to do is more forcefully push for a conversation about the association’s wants with the Tours, something that the bodies requested early in the process that the OGPA wished to wait to do so once moving through their processes planned out by the board of both player and non-player directors on its board. The group also consulting its advisory board that again includes both business professionals and golfers, among them major champion Hannah Green.
“Now we can say we are professional members organisation, recognised for our purpose by the ACCC, and now it is time for us to sit down." - Bryden Macpherson.
“Now we can say we are professional members organisation, recognised for our purpose by the ACCC, and now it is time for us to sit down, we didn’t need to go through this process if it had been amicable to begin with,” Macpherson said. “But every single thing that we have been doing is because we want to work on behalf of the membership.
“As far as the process now, that is something that the board has to do decide. But obviously what we want to do is sit with the Tour. We have our information from our members from survey data that has been condensed down and then revisited by all the player directors and members of our new advisory board as well. Basically, what we want to do is sit with the Tours and negotiate on behalf of the members with this content.”
Conversations with Tours will be a clearly evolving process for the OGPA, the Tour requiring time amongst the current schedule of men’s and women’s events to digest the ACCC decision and new status of the OGPA and creating their own plan to move forward.
A carefully mapped out plan also a big part of the OGPA’s own arrival to today’s announcement, that Macpherson admits had some players and members questioning when tangible things would happen. The guidance of OGPA Chairman Joe Sponholz, a Partner and Director at LEK Consulting in Sydney with vast experience in players associations in the past a crucial element in to ensure the cart never got in front of the horse.
“There is a lot of work that goes into it and there is a process and an order that you have to do things, we can’t just do things willy nilly, we have to think about things, when we are doing it, and stick to our plan,” the two-time PGA Tour of Australasia winner said. “We have been lucky to have the guidance of Joe (Sponholz) and all out other independent directors to make sure we are doing that properly, but yes there is some frustrations from our members and other Tour members and I am sure Tour staff as well that things aren’t kicking off in a sense, but hopefully this represents a paradigm shift.
“The thing that I would say to everybody is that it has been a plan from the start and we have been following that on expert advice. So that is how we know that the team we have we are going to be successful.”
Although today marks a significant moment in the OGPA’s brief history and could perhaps foreshadow big changes for professional golf in this country, there is much of this story to play out. With the response of the PGA and WPGA Tours of Australasia the most intriguing element.