THE R&A has been bombarded with “hate mail” since it was announced the live rights for the Open Championship had been sold to Sky Sports from 2017.
An angry reaction to the BBC being left with just highlights after next year’s event at Royal Troon has resulted in a full postbag being delivered to the St Andrews-based organisation over the past week.
“Oh, we’ve had plenty of hate mail,” revealed Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, during a briefing with golf journalists yesterday at the Old Course.
Trying to inject some humour into the matter, he added: “Given some of the intemperate language, it is clearly from individuals who haven’t read the etiquette section of the rule book.”
Dawson said the response to the new TV deal had been the “highest” compared to any other contentious issue during his near 16-year tenure.
“It’s a natural reaction initially to be upset,” he continued. “But, when you actually sit and think about it and analyse it all, I’m very happy that they shouldn’t be upset. They shouldn’t have a reason to.
“It’s a bit absurd to think, given our mission and our role, that we would do something like this if we didn’t think it was going to work out in the best interest of the game because we wouldn’t.”
He added: “Given everything that’s happened here, we are very, very happy with the outcome,
“I read in the papers that it’s the R&A’s greed that’s doing this, we’ve taken the money, and to hell with the viewers. Not true.
“What are we going to do with the money? We’re going to put it back into the game.”
Increased resources will be ploughed into helping the game address decreasing participation levels, though Dawson is adamant that The Open being moving to satellite TV will do major harm in that respect.
“I think it’s borderline absurd, given where we’re at in golf and broadcasting, that four days of the Open is going to make a dramatic difference in participation of itself. I don’t think that’s the case, frankly,” he said.
“There is no formula here. We can name sports that have been on free-to-air where participation has fallen; we can name sports that have been on subscription television that participation has risen. I don’t really know the answer.
“I know it’s attractive to think that that’s the case, but I think there are many other facets to this in the mix of why participation goes up and down.
“One of the great things about golf is that it’s a game you can play at all ages. I think getting older people who perhaps almost can’t play any other sport, because of the nature of the sport, into golf is something we should be attacking.”