US golf chiefs have told players that Saudi-funded dissident rebels, including England’s Ian Poulter, are trying to “freeride” by taking legal action to be allowed back into PGA Tour events.

Poulter is among 11 LIV Golf players who have filed a lawsuit in the United States seeking their suspension from the North American Golf Tour survey.

LIV Golf has caused rifts in the golfing world since attracting players with entry fees reportedly exceeding £100m in some cases, and a prize fund of $25m ($20.6 million pounds sterling) per event.

In a memo to members obtained by Sky News, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote: “With the Saudi golf league on hiatus, they are trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing. This is an attempt to use the Tour platform to promote themselves and take advantage of your benefits and efforts.

“Allowing reinstatement in our events compromises the Tour and the competition, to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans. The lawsuit they filed somehow expects us to believe otherwise, c That is why we intend to make our case clearly and vigorously.”

The series is funded by Saudi Arabiadrawing criticism from activists who accuse the kingdom of using the glamor of sport to burnish the kingdom’s image amid continued concerns over human rights abuses.

The players signed up to begin competing on the LIV Golf Tour in June despite the threat of discipline from the PGA Tour for a year.

A temporary restraining order has been requested by a trio of players – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – to participate from next week in the FedEx Cup play-offs which will determine the season champion on the PGA Tour.

Mr Monahan said: “We are preparing to protect our members and challenge this latest attempt to disrupt our Tour, and you should have confidence in the legal merits of our position. Basically, these suspended players – who are now Saudi Golf League employees – left the Tour and now want to come back.”

Read more:
Why LIV Golf is the most controversial sports tournament
Phil Mickelson says he doesn’t condone human rights abuses ahead of Saudi-backed tour

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Phil Mickelson played at the first LIV Golf Invitational at Hemel Hempstead

There is one month left until the next LIV Golf event in Boston.

The antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour has been filed in the US District Court in San Francisco.

LIV Golf said in a statement: “The players are right to have brought this action to challenge the PGA Tour’s anti-competitive rules and to assert their rights as independent contractors to play wherever and whenever they choose. Despite the efforts of the PGA Tour to stifle competition, we believe golfers should be allowed to play golf.”

Mr Monahan said he stands up for the rights of members who play by the rules and urged players to speak out against LIV Golf.

He added: “It’s your TOUR, built on the foundation that we work together for the good and growth of the organization…and then you reap the rewards. It seems your former colleagues have overlooked an important aspect. of this equation.

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