Scottish Golf chair makes sexism claim as fee increase is rejected

Scottish Golf chair Eleanor Cannon. Picture: Jon Savage
Scottish Golf chair Eleanor Cannon. Picture: Jon Savage
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Eleanor Cannon, the chair of Scottish Golf, has claimed that sexism towards her was part of the reason a proposal to increase the affiliation fee paid by golf club members was rejected. Men involved in the process that led to a bid to increase that payment by £3.75 to £15 being tossed out have also been told by one of Cannon’s closest allies that they should be “ashamed at some of their behaviour” towards her.

To what was described by Cannon as “a groan of disbelief” in the room at the governing body’s twice- delayed annual general meeting at Dalmahoy, the much-publicised proposal resulted in 235 for but 270 against in a vote by shareholders, a group that consists of men’s Area and women’s County associations as well as the near-600 clubs in the country.

The rejection means that a figure of between £300,000 and £450,000 will need to be slashed from Scottish Golf’s budget, which has already been cut by around £700,000 due to a drastic reduction in sportscotland funding, over the next 18 months, with Cannon admitting that job losses are now inevitable.

“The result is massively disappointing, particularly for the team at Scottish Golf,” she said afterwards. “We have already cut costs to quite a dramatic extent in the last two years. I think the number was just short of £700,000 and, as a result of today, we have an even bigger challenge of somewhere between £300,000 and £450,000 that we will have to cut. That will be almost £1.5 million over the course of the last two years. That’s a pretty savage cut in a game that needs to grow in Scotland and we all want it to grow.”

Asked by Scotland on Sunday about job cuts, she added: “Absolutely, 100 per cent. We have already gone from 48 to 32 people, but the only way to cover losing between £300,000 and £450,000 over an 18-month period in an organisation that has already had cuts is by through losing people and the services they provide.”

An initial proposal to increase the affiliation fee to £24 was withdrawn by Scottish Golf along with suggestions for the introduction of a golf tourist tax and the implementation of a customer relationship (CRM) system for clubs following the man who was behind all those ideas, Blane Dodds, quitting as chief exective to take up a similar post with Tennis Scotland.His successor is set to be Andrew McKinlay, who is currently the Scottish Football Association’s chief operating officer, but his excitement about taking up his new post will have surely have been dampened somewhat by finding himself trying to grow the game with reduced resources.

Asked if she was considering walking away on the back of this disappointment, Cannon insisted: “Absolutely not. The reason I am doing this job is because of the situation we find ourselves in. I’ve been there in the business world and you need to be resilient and strong. You need to keep believing. The people who brought this vote to where it is today are getting in the way of the people we want to reach in terms of the legacy we want to leave to the game. This is not about this generation or the generation after that. We made a commitment as a board that we would leave this game in better shape for our grandkids and their grandkids and we are determined to do it. The reason I am doing it is because I knew it would be tough.”

While one delegate came out the room claiming that the meeting had been a “shambles”, both Cannon and Malcolm Robertson, who has just ended his spell as a non-executive director, hit out strongly at some of the people involved in the voting process, mainly representatives of Area associations but also some club managers.

“It’s not a personal issue. It’s around the fact that the chair of Scottish Golf is a female,” claimed Cannon. “The only way to deal with it is to out it and confront it. I’d love to tell you some of the things, but I will sort this out inside the tent. Those who have behaved badly know they have behaved badly. I’ve talked to them individually about it.

“At the end of today’s meeting I made a plea. As officials of the game please respectfully pick up the phone if you have an issue and don’t go into legal speak or don’t let yourself down by going on social media. What is said on social media is disgraceful.

“Last Friday we had a legal challenge and I was forced to come here with Karin Sharp [corporate services director] in the snow to start the AGM and then adjourn it and to sit here for an Area who had told me I was breaking the law on social media.

“I sat here for six hours waiting to see if anybody would turn up. It cost the company £10,000. Well done that person. Nobody turned up. £10,000. What a great investment in the game. To be fair, I have outed them, they are embarrassed, they let themselves down and I have confronted them.”

An equally disappointed Robertson, who pointed out that one delegate had highlighted the argument was over the cost of a single golf ball, added: “The behaviour that is demanded by golfers when they are on a golf course should, in my view, apply around the governance of the game and it doesn’t. Some of the behaviour, particularly directed at the chair, has been disgraceful.

“You don’t see much of it played out at these meetings because there is a courage lacking. It might be embarrassing for Eleanor to hear it, but I’ve been ashamed by some of the behaviour, men in particular, which has been levelled at the chair. That culture has to change. There is a generational issue. Some of the behaviour has to be outed and exposed. ”