Duddingston withdraw support for SGU/SLGA merger

ONE of Edinburgh’s leading golf clubs has withdrawn its support for a merger between the game’s two governing bodies in Scotland after claiming it is a “facade” due to the proposal not introducing proportional representation.

Catriona Matthew (left) is backing the proposed SGU/SLGA merger. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Acting on behalf of Duddingston GC, Alan Grosset, a past captain and ex-lawyer who has experience of amalgamations in other sports, has written to the Scottish Golf Union outlining why it no longer supports the planned amalgamation with the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association.

While strongly in favour of the principle of the two bodies coming under the one umbrella and set to have a woman captain next year for the first time in the club’s history, the Duddingston board believes it is a mistake that the proposal has not addressed the current voting structure for the 16 men’s Area Associations.

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Under it, Clackmannanshire, with just six clubs, has the same number of votes – ten – as the likes of the Lothians, with around 70, and the North East, which has over 50.

“We were initially in favour of the amalgamation proposal, but then Alan Grosset, who has been following it for us from day one, said ‘whoa, wait a minute, do you realise this about the voting structure?’” said Duddingston captain Bill Lothian. “We are not against it per se, no way, but it’s the way it is being set up that concerns us.”

In his letter, Grosset, a former chairman of the Scottish Sports Association, claims the voting clause is “undemocratic” and accuses SGU chairman Tom Craig of “ignoring” questions at a roadshow held at Turnhouse GC towards the end of last year.

Grosset is still fuming over the SGU suffering a financial hit with the much-maligned Scottish National Golf Centre at Drumoig after being among those to ring alarm bells over it and is adamant that proportional representation needs to be introduced as part of amalgamation.

“I don’t trust the people that are running the SGU and that goes back to Drumoig, which they made a pig’s ear of after making the wrong decision – £3 million of golfers’ money and Lottery money was lost on that,” he said. “The Areas pay no subscription to the SGU, as the clubs do on behalf of their members, and yet irrespective of the [number of] clubs in any Area each Area gets ten votes. That plainly flies in the face of the remit given to Alastair Thornton’s working party.

“What should happen is a form of proportional representation for Areas reflecting the number of subscription-paying clubs in each Area. The response to that question in the papers circulated suggests that Scottish golf is well served by the present system, which is not the case.

“Having listened to Mr Craig at the Turnhouse roadshow, he simply wishes to get the press off the back of the SGU and carry on as before. All that will emerge if the proposals are passed will be a facade of amalgamation with no real merger happening beneath Board level. For all the time and expense that seems to have been involved, Scottish golf deserves better than this.”

Nearly four years after it failed at the first attempt, the proposal has already received unanimous backing from the SLGA membership, with indications that the SGU is also set to secure the two-thirds support it needs at an egm being held at the end of next month.

“It doesn’t make sense in this day and age to have two governing bodies, it is just the way it is being set up that is ringing alarm bells,” added Lothian. “Everybody wants amalgamation but you don’t want it at all costs.”

Duddingston’s change of heart emerged as the proposal received backing from Scotland’s two top golfers – Stephen Gallacher and Catriona Matthew.

Ahead of an independent poll of clubs closing at 5pm on Friday, Matthew said she believed a merged body would “strengthen” golf in Scotland while Gallacher is confident it will “benefit” the game in the sport’s cradle.