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SBD Global/March 27, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

St. Andrews Board Recommends Opening Doors To Female Members

The R&A has recommended opening membership to women for first time.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is recommending that "women be allowed to join the club after 260 years as an exclusively male institution," according to Alex Lowe of the LONDON TIMES. R&A General Committee Chair Wilson Sibbett "has written to the 2,400 existing members asking them to back the proposals," which will be discussed at the forthcoming spring meeting before going to a vote on Sept. 18. The club said it is “strongly in favour” of the rule change, which requires a two-thirds majority. The R&A, which also serves as the governing body of golf, "came under intense pressure from politicians and sponsors" after last year’s Open Championship at Muirfield, a club which also excludes women members. U.K. Minister for Sport & Equalities Helen Grant welcomed the news and urged R&A members "to follow the recommendation to vote for women members." Grant: “It would mark a step in the right direction for the sport and I would hope encourage the remaining golf clubs that still have anachronistic single-sex member policies to follow suit” (LONDON TIMES, 3/26). In London, James Corrigan reported the R&A in "following the lead of Augusta" would obviously "assist the executive of R&A, particularly in dealing with sponsors." One of the biggest of these, HSBC, "vocalised its opposition to the Open visiting male-only membership clubs." HSBC Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan "made clear that the R&A’s continued stance on taking its major to male-only establishments could have repercussions." Morgan: “It's not something we are going to hold a gun to their heads about. But the R&A are clear that it's a very uneasy position for the bank." Whether the R&A "would be prepared to tell the male-only membership clubs that they can only stage the Open if they, too, admit females is another matter." R&A CEO Peter Dawson said last year, "To think that the R&A might say to a club like Muirfield, 'You are not going to have the Open any more unless you change your policy' is frankly a bullying position that we would never take. Muirfield has a huge history of the Open Championship and who are we to say what they should do because they are behaving perfectly legally?” (TELEGRAPH, 3/26). In London, Ewan Murray reported like Augusta before it, the R&A "will be anxious to avoid any sense that it was bounced into this move by public pressure." Nonetheless, the "intensity of criticism, particularly around the time of last year's Open Championship, was such that those in charge of the event -- essentially the R&A's corporate wing -- would inevitable want to avoid a repeat" (GUARDIAN, 3/26).
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