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There is a whiff of  scandal around the recently completed Open Championship. (Well done, Zach.) I have lived in Gullane since 1971, and  have been present at every Open staged at Muirfield since 1972. I watch the others on TV, thus when the 2013 event came around, I hadn’t been physically at one since 2002, the year of the Great Storm, when conditions were playable since it rained so hard that the balls could barely move anywhere. When I bought my season ticket for the event, in advance at a discounted rate, I could not help but note that the cost had doubled over the eleven year gap. I put that down to avarice, nothing else; it was not untlI I stepped on to the course and headed for the ‘Village’ area that my outrage exploded.  In days gone by the exhibition tent was the off-course centrepiece of the Open for the paying customer. All the major equipment and clothing manufacturers paid handsomely for space under canvas, to show off their latest kit; serious golfers were able to handle the latest Big Bertha or Taylor-made or whatever, and the space was packed. By 2013, all that had gone. The only people allowed on site were the championship’s ‘official’ sponsors, HSBC, Mastercard, Mercedes, Nikon, NTT Data, Ralph Lauren, Rolex and Doosan, a Korean conglomerate with a vast range of activities, none of which have the faintest connection with golf.  The only merchandise on sale, apart from over-priced Polo clothing and expensive watches, bore the official Championship branding. That’s right, it was no longer possible for a visitor to  the championship to pick up a golf club and swing it. Amazing, outrageous. Under the stewardship of Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, the Open has been taken away steadily from the people.  As his final act before he shimmies off into retirement, he has overseen the completion of the job, by selling broadcasting rights to a subscription television channel. One of the world’s great sporting championships is now purely a machine for maximising profit, at the expense of the true owners of the game, the people who play it, and love it. (Having been involved as a volunteer marshal at the recent Scottish Open, I  have to say that the European Tour has developed along similar lines, but to put that in context, the cost of five days’ golf viewing at Gullane would have bought one day at St Andrews.)
Categories: Sport
  1. Brian Campbell
    July 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    It’s not just golf that’s being sold to the likes of Rupert the Kangeroo (infamous for publishing pictures of Her Majesty supposedly endorsing The Nazi regime). When you and I were bairns we could watch The Ashes matches for free. Now we have to pay. Only half of the F1 races are now free. What next? Wimbledon, the Olympics. Six Nations.

    • July 23, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Wombledon and the Olympics are on the Crown Jewels list of events that must be on free-to-air TV. Maybe that should be devolved to Nicola. If so we might find that the FA Cup Final and the Derby ceased to be protected.

  2. Scott Miller
    August 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Just read this today and couldn’t agree more. I remember my Dad taking me to the Seve Open, my first Open, in 84. I remember the tented village was a vast golf showroom full of equipment. Now, sadly, as you point out, it’s only the official overpriced clothing and souvenirs.

    Then you have the ticket prices, vastly outstripping inflation. I went to St Andrews in 2000, a daily ticket was £30. Inflation should have that today at about £46-47. Instead this year it was £80 to walk up. 2 years ago at Muirfield was the first time the R&A had got rid of the Senior concession with crowds well down.

    And then there’s the coverage moving to Sky. When Lee Westwood is angrily opposed to it, you’ve got to think there’s a lot more players with similar feelings. It’s the R&A pandering to big business to keep the nepotistic old boys network in G&T’s while pricing out the ordinary golf fan. A complete disgrace, but no doubt Dawson will be rewarded with a knighthood and an induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Should be the Hall of Shame for him.

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