Stephen McAllister, a two-time European Tour winner and a man with his finger in many pies, has been enlisted by Scottish Golf to help come up with new revenue streams as the sport braces itself for significant Scottish Government cutbacks.
As revealed recently by Scotland on Sunday, golf is among the sports that are about to see £2 million being stripped collectively from funds issued annually to 50 national governing bodies by Sportscotland. One chief executive described the Government’s shifting of resources away from sport and into public health initiatives as “brutal”.
Scottish Golf, the unified body that runs the amateur game in the home of golf, is getting roughly £1 million, a quarter of its income, from Sportscotland this year but has been told that figure is being reduced.
“How far is the question,” said chief executive Blane Dodds. “The language we are hearing is that overall it’s not so much the reasoning behind the cutbacks, it’s more the Government’s decision to put money into other areas. That’s the main driver. The sums are quite sizeable. It seems to be there’s a strategic shift away from sport and into other areas.”
The situation about to unfold in Scotland is in stark contrast to England. The England Golf Partnership, the lead funding body for golf south of the Border, was recently awarded a total of £8.48m over the next four years, a figure that is to be split between boosting participation in golf and investing in developing talent. The award is the third highest, after netball and rugby union, from a pot of £101 million being distributed to 25 governing bodies.
“We have been told roughly how much the cut is going to be, but I’d rather not say at the moment where it is pitched at as we are negotiating with them,” added Dodds, speaking at a media briefing held at Haggs Castle Golf Club in Glasgow. “Our board will be making representations to the Sports Minister about the value and importance of golf in its position in Scotland.
“Golf is positioned very different on that than any other sports. There are 15,000 people working in golf in Scotland alone. It’s also got the highest participation (750,000) of any sport in Scotland. The scale and reach of it is of benefit to the nation. It’s a difficult one for Sportscotland because that’s not their remit, and that’s why we are making representations to the Government.
“Whatever happens, there is going to be a reduction in funding. We know that and, in that regard, if we want to grow our sport, we cannot do it without resources.
“That’s one of our priorities over the next weeks, months, years, how do we bring resources in?”
Step forward McAllister, who not only knows the game inside out – his two wins on the European Tour, in the Atlantic Open and the KLM Dutch Open, both came in 1990 – but is also a successful businessman. He was part of the management team, for instance, that set up the Mearns Castle Golf Academy on the south side of Glasgow, while he has also been responsible for bringing sponsors to the PGA in Scotland table, notably the P&H Championship, one of the leading events on the Tartan Tour.
“Golf is a huge vehicle for business throughout the world,” he said. “Every day in my life there is conversation about all manner of things,but it always comes back to ‘how’s your golf?’ It’s a great default position. Surely we must benefit from that. I still see the interest in golf is very high on my travels. I hope it doesn’t die off. We have to keep people in the game and not chase them out.
“We have a huge wealth of contacts throughout the world and it’s quite exciting bringing new contacts to the table. My stuff is more Scotland and the UK, but we’re looking further afield – why not? I think USA is definitely one because of the Scottish connection. Golf, for me, is a huge club. It should be partnerships rather than sponsorships. It’s trying to build a strong relationship from the grass-roots right through to senior golf.”
Dodds insisted that McAllister’s appointment on a consultancy basis is part of a long-term plan as opposed to reacting to the Government’s funding cuts. “We have been talking about this for some time,” he said. “I’m very passionate about us being masters of our own destiny because clearly, through Sportscotland, the Government is having difficulty supporting sports like what they have been in the last few years.”