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Having spent 22 of  the last 48 hours at the Open Championship I’ve come to realise the truth of an observation my son made some months ago.

I saw a lady from the Cooncil, Angela Leitch, the chief executive, no less, holding forth on telly a couple of nights ago  about the contribution, an alleged £70 million, that the event is making to the local economy.  That’s not what I’m hearing.

Where local businesses might have expected to benefit, and have invested accordingly, they have found that the footfall has been far less than expected. I’ve even heard it said that our local Co-op is doing less business than it would in a normal week. Why? Because, as AJ predicted at the start of the year,  the vast majority of visitors to the Championship never set foot in Gullane. They are brought in on buses  to the public entrance to the course, from Drem railway station and from Park and Ride facilities, and taken away by the same fleet at the end of the day. At the entrances, they are greeted by a small army of people from London, amiable employees of the notorious G4S of Olympics fame, very few of whom seem to have the faintest idea where they are. Other visitors to the event, and even local residents with little or no interest in the Open, are positively discouraged from going anywhere near the local shops by a fairly aggressive traffic management plan, implemented by East Lothian Council and Police Scotland.

As a result of this, all of the visitor spend is being directed into the avaricious grasp of the R&A, who have ensured that it goes on a very limited range of over-priced Open-branded goods, from which only they and their main sponsors profit, and on very expensive food and drink served up by the R&A’s own bars or by concession stalls, all of them staffed by people with no local roots at all.

So you see, Ms Leitch, you’ve been stitched up like an idiot. Very little of that £70 million is going anywhere near the local economy. Instead it’s going into the pockets of a crew of carpet-baggers from St Andrews in shiny-buttoned blazers. This is doubly annoying, because the Open Championship could not be staged without the volunteer marshals from the county’s golf clubs who control spectator crossings, stand access, ball-spotting etc., and are paid off with a few vouchers, exchangeable only in the  on-course facilities, that will no doubt be written off against the tax on the many, many millions that the R&A are trousering. They’re the real heroes of this week, and they will go unnoticed and unrewarded.

Is it a great event? Yes it still is,  even if admission prices have doubled since it was last in Gullane in 2002.

Are people enjoying themselves? Yes, they appear to be, not least because of the willingness of most of the players to interact with them whenever they can.

Is it as good as it was? No, because it’s being strangled by corporate greed.


Categories: Sport
  1. Gillian
    July 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

    But hey!!! for us folk in England the scenery i.e Bass Rock and Gullane Bents is just amazing, but I keep looking out for “Bob”. It is great to hear places mentioned that your readers know and love…. I just wished the BBC would put all the scenery together for us to view.. Perhaps you and AJ could give us a wave…. The Golf well I think there is still alot to come and just maybe a few surprise, and hopefully the numbers will grow for today and tomorrow.
    Kind regards
    Ps More Pics!! please

  2. teargas
    July 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    It really is sad; corporate greed is invading everything we’ve ever loved doing. In my case, it was music festivals in the seventies and early eighties when it was still fun, not expensive to get in, when there was a charge at all and not a rip-off once there. Go to Glastonbury or anywhere else now? No chance! I sympathise entirely.

  3. Pat Wright
    July 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    How did the “bosses” manage to take over a “local” event??? Probably true in any major golf tournament, including our Phoenix Open. By the way, our “homeboy”, Phil Mickelson is doing okay,isn’t he?

    • July 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

      The Open hasn’t been a ‘local’ event since God was a boy. Your ‘Homeboy’ is kinda shared with San Diego, isn’t he?

      Phil is not without a chance of winning today, but he’s a few shots behind some very good players on a course that isn’t naturally suited to his game. Muirfield has sorted out some very good players. The house opposite mine has been rented for this week by a PGA Tour pro, but he and his family are on their way home after an 88 in the second round.

  4. Mary Baxter
    July 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    From what I heard today from some people working at the event things are not going as well as planned. The high ticket prices have taken their toll and numbers are way down on what was expected. We locals can maybe take some heart from this. Hoping for better things next Sat for our Airshow, when the Drem road will be open again for my journey to and from. Are you coming along next week?

  5. Pat Wright
    July 21, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Okay, the weather must have suited Phil, and he IS a “homeboy” in that he graduated from ASU in Tempe and his brother is a coach there and San Diego is Arizonan’s beach in the long hot weekends in Phoenix! The closest coast we have. BTW, are you saying the OPen was NEVER a local event, and if not, how did it get to be the”Open”? Also, I’m not really a golf fan but in my salad years, Lee Trevino was my favorite character/golfer on the circuit. My brother knew him in El Paso where we used to live and shared (a) bar with him (frequented thereof)

    • July 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Your Homie done good, Pat. He didn’t try to overpower the course; instead he stayed patient and played the right shots at the right time. He’s a very popular winner here. By its very name, the Open Championship is a global event, open to all golfers everywhere who are good enough to meet its qualification standards.

      Trevino was everyone’s favourite in his time. He won the Open at Muirfield too, in 1972. He also played in the Ryder Cup here.

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