WHILE insisting it was not a case of “holding a gun to anyone’s head”, a senior figure in one of the Open Championship’s main sponsors has spoken for the first time about the “uneasy position” in terms of the event being staged at men-only clubs.
Giles Morgan, HSBC’s global head of sponsorship and events, revealed yesterday that the banking giant had been consulted by the R&A, organisers of the game’s oldest major, since the furore surrounding last year’s tournament at Muirfield, where First Minister Alex Salmond chose not to attend.
Speaking at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, Morgan said he is confident “things are moving” on the thorny subject and is hopeful the R&A’s ongoing research will lead to a “niggle” going away for one of golf’s biggest sponsors, which is estimated to pump several million pounds per year into the Open Championship alone.
“They [the R&A] are doing a lot of research,” said Morgan. “They’ve been asking a lot of sponsors and stakeholders. They are acutely aware that things need to change and move on. What I think they are doing right is that they are spending some proper consultancy time looking at this rather than knee jerking to a sort of populist decision.
“Through what they research, I think they will end up with the right answer. I just feel that for the good of the game – and this is why they are doing the consultancy they are – it’s looked at properly and then they can face the golfing world properly and say this is our decision based on a lot of consulting with the important and right people in the game of golf.”
HSBC’s golfing portfolio includes big-money champions’ events for both men and women and Morgan added: “This isn’t going away and the R&A are clear that it’s a very uneasy position for the bank. When you are showcasing one of the world’s greatest tournaments it would be much more palatable if the events were played where there was not the sense of segregation. It’s not something we are going to hold a gun to their heads about. But we would like to see it get solved so we don’t keep talking about it.”
Responding to the comments, a spokesman for the R&A said: “We promised a period of reflection immediately after last year’s Championship and this process is ongoing. Naturally we have taken soundings within the game and we will report the outcome of our deliberations in due course.”