The Sport Resolutions panel found players on the DP World Tour who defected to LIV Golf had "committed serious breaches" of the Code of Behaviour ©Getty Images

The DP World Tour has won a legal battle against 12 players who defected to the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf, ordering them to pay £100,000 ($124,000/€114,000) fines within 30 days.

Members of the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, had challenged fines and suspensions imposed on them for playing in LIV events without permission.

The players including England's Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood had been denied a "conflicting event" exemption, but sanctions imposed by the DP World Tour were held back pending an appeal, which was heard by the United Kingdom-based Sport Resolutions.

They argued they were independent contractors and had previously played on rival circuits including the PGA Tour, but the DP World Tour said players competing on the LIV Golf series was damaging to its calendar.

A three-member panel chaired by Phillip Sycamore found that the players had "committed serious breaches" of the Code of Behaviour of the DP World Tour Regulations by playing in LIV events.

DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley welcomed the panel's verdict.

"We are delighted that the panel recognised we have a responsibility to our full membership to do this and also determined that the process we followed was fair and proportionate," he said.

"In deciding the level of these sanctions last June, we were simply administering the regulations which were created by our members and which each of them signed up to.

"It is, of course, regrettable that resources, both financial and staffing, which could have been otherwise deployed across our organisation, have been impacted by this lengthy arbitration process."

The Canadian official added the DP World Tour would "carefully consider the details of today’s decision with our Board, our Tournament Committee and our legal advisors and take the appropriate action in due course".

However, he admitted further sanctions "might make it more difficult" for LIV rebels to play in DP World Tour qualifying events and qualify for the Ryder Cup.

DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said the ruling was a
DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said the ruling was a "landmark decision" ©Getty Images

Players must be members of the DP World Tour to be eligible for the European team in the biennial competition.

Pelley described the ruling as a "landmark decision", insisting "all sporting organisations must be able to have rules and regulations and members have to abide by them".

LIV Golf counsel Matthew Schwartz expressed disappointment at the ruling.

"We disagree with the procedural opinion from the DP World Tour’s arbitral body, which has failed to address in reasonable substance why competitive forces must be upheld," he said, as reported by Sky Sports.

"By punishing players for playing golf, the DP World Tour is seeking to unreasonably control players and it is the sport and fans that suffer.

"There are no winners.

"This is a sacred week in the global sports calendar and the on-course competition is what matters.

"LIV remains focused on its decades-long vision to enhance the game and is looking forward to its upcoming tournament in Australia in front of 70,000 fans."

The ruling has no impact on the ongoing Masters Tournament, men's golf's first major of the year, in which 18 LIV players have been permitted to enter.

England's Ian Poulter was among the DP World Tour players denied a
England's Ian Poulter was among the DP World Tour players denied a "conflicting event" exemption to compete at LIV Golf events and fined £100,000 after the Sport Resolutions decision ©Getty Images

LIV Golf launched in October 2021, sparking significant infighting in men's golf.

The lucrative tour has lured more than 30 members of the PGA Tour including last year's Open Championship winner Cameron Smith of Australia and long-time world number one Dustin Johnson of the United States.

LIV events are 54-hole competitions played with a shotgun start and without cuts, and do not currently offer official world golf ranking points used to determine qualification for the Olympic Games.

The PGA Tour responded by suspending LIV players and increasing prize money at its "elevated events".

It is involved in a separate antitrust legal battle with LIV Golf and some of its players in which a trial is not expected until next year.

LIV Golf Investments is owned in the majority by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and critics say the country is using it for sportswashing and acquiring soft power.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, women's rights are severely restricted, as is free speech, and the country is leading a coalition which has carried out deadly airstrikes across Yemen since 2015.

American players who have joined LIV Golf have faced particular criticism because of alleged Saudi links to the 9/11 terror attacks.

LIV Golf claims it is bringing "new energy and excitement to fans" of the sport.