In the 27-year history of golf’s ranking system no fully fit golfer will have slid so far so quickly down the depth charts than if Rory McIlroy finishes the year as world number 6 having started the year as number 1.

McIlroy will look back on the year that has been as one dominated by an off-course side show. McIlroy is at the centre of two multi-million dollar court cases; Oakley v McIlroy in the United States and McIlroy v Horizon Sports Management in Ireland. The catalyst for all McIlroy’s legal nightmares centre around his monster contract deal with Nike, with the young Ulsterman netting himself a 10 year deal worth a reported $20million dollars a year.

Luke Patel
Luke Patel

The claim that Oakley have against McIlroy is that the young golfer and his management company of the time, Horizon Sports Management, did not grant Oakley a right of first refusal. Under the terms of the contract between Oakley and McIlroy, if any competitor of Oakley (on the facts Nike) put an offer on the table, Oakley were entitled to match that offer. What complicates matters for McIlroy is that the testimony he is relying heavily on to disprove Oakley is from his former Horizon agent, Conor Ridge.

McIlroy’s legal proceedings in Ireland are against the said Mr Ridge. McIlroy has stated that when he penned the deal with Horizon he did not have the relevant business experience and was not directed to seek the relevant legal advice. The extent of the management deal came to light when McIlroy signed his lucrative Nike deal and the percentage that Horizon were taking from the young golfer. From all off-course earnings this was a cool 20% in addition to a 5% cut for his on-course winnings. Now McIlroy is seeking to sue Ridge in what he describes as an “unconscionable” contract which left McIlroy handing over $6.8Million in fees in just an 18 month period surrounding the Nike deal. Horizon have been bold in their defence of these allegations, saying they have a legally binding contract and the success he enjoyed before he signed the Nike contract, when he had risen to world number one under their guidance, is compelling evidence.

Last month saw McIlroy officially split from Horizon taking with him their former head of Strategy, Donal Casey. Casey has taken the role of CEO of Rory McIlroy Incorporated (RMI) along with Barry Funston, Terry Prone and Rory’s father Gerry making up the other members of the company. It is reported that Casey also suffered at the hands of Horizon as he was not paid a €500,000 success fee; rather he was offered an amount closer to €200,000. This was another factor in McIlroy wishing to part ways with Horizon as McIlroy states in Court papers that he was not notified of the dispute.

In financial terms McIlroy is looking very healthy as he earns a reported £31,000 a day from Nike but he will want to get his game back to the time when Nike decided to make the Ulsterman one of the highest paid sports stars in the world.

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