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SBD Global/January 21, 2014/Events and Attractions

Open Championship Sponsor 'Uneasy' Over Men-Only Policy At Golf Clubs

HSBC's Giles Morgan said his company is in an 'uneasy' position over male golf clubs.
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," according to Martin Dempster of THE SCOTSMAN. HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship & Events Giles Morgan revealed Saturday that "the banking giant had been consulted" by event organizers Royal & Ancient since the "furore surrounding last year’s tournament at Muirfield, where First Minister Alex Salmond chose not to attend." 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 (SCOTSMAN, 1/20). ESPN's Bob Harig noted Morgan said, "I don't want to be in a situation where we are potentially having to justify our sponsorship.'' R&A CEO Peter Dawson said last summer that the organization "would be looking at the issue." While he "personally defended the practice of same-sex clubs, he acknowledged that it one day could hurt the championship," which provides funding to all of the other tournaments it runs as well as various golf programs, including women's initiatives (ESPN, 1/18). GOLF DIGEST's John Huggan wrote that Morgan used "strong words, with obvious implications for the economic future of the Open, the R&A's primary source of income." Given that fact, "it was no surprise that the St. Andrews-based organization was not slow in responding." An R&A spokesperson said, "We promised a period of reflection immediately after last year's championship and this process is on-going. Naturally we have taken soundings within the game, and we will report the outcome of our deliberations in due course" (GOLF DIGEST, 1/18).

ALL POLITICS: The Scotland DAILY RECORD reported Salmond "was among the political figures who stayed away from Muirfield," describing the club's membership policy as "indefensible in the 21st century." Similar protests occur when the championship is staged at Royal St George's and Troon -- the other clubs on the nine-strong Open rota to be men-only. However, Dawson said that the R&A "was inclined to resist such pressure, despite finding the issue 'increasingly difficult'" (DAILY RECORD, 1/18).
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