An ancient notion is past [National, The (United Arab Emirates)]
(National, The (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) If the wheels are indeed in motion for the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) to move away from its history of using male-only clubs when staging the British Open, then a liberal dose of axel grease has just been applied by a key sponsor.
Blessed with some of the deepest pockets in sports marketing, Giles Morgan, who handles sponsorship for global banking giant HSBC, said yesterday that his company has made clear their case that the festering gender issue needs to be rectified.
Three of the venues used as sites for the British Open by the R&A – itself a male-only club – do not have female members.
Muirfield, the site of last summer's championship, is one of the trio.
"I don't want to be in a situation where we are potentially having to justify our sponsorship," Morgan said during the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Morgan said that last autumn the R&A began contacting sponsors and parties associated with the world's oldest major championship about their feelings on the subject, at which point he made his position clear.
Interestingly, HSBC's sponsorship deal expires after this year's event.
"There is no doubt at all that every human being has the right to join whatever club they want, in whatever focus it is," Morgan said.
"But when you are showcasing one of the world's greatest golf tournaments, it would be much more palatable if the events were played where there wasn't a sense of segregation."
A spokesman for the R&A said: "We promised a period of reflection immediately after last year's championship and this process is ongoing.
"Naturally, we have taken soundings within the game and we will report the outcome of our deliberations in due course."
HSBC sponsors golf events on major men's and women's tours. Morgan said he has fielded few customer complaints about the company's financial ties with the group.
"The R&A are very aware of our position, that we would like this to get solved, so that we don't keep talking about it," Morgan said.
"Because the Open is a wonderful, wonderful event, it is staged beautifully, our customers love it, the event itself is very male and female, so that's not the issue."
While Morgan's complaint has to do with the staging of tournaments at all-male clubs, he knows many do not separate that issue from the R&A's male-only membership policy, which makes it double toxic.
All-male clubs Muirfield, Royal St George's and Troon are part of a nine-course rotation used for the Open.
Now that Augusta National has admitted female members, the criticism of the R&A – the governing body of the game outside the US and Mexico – has intensified.
Morgan noted the "great irony" of the R&A, which provides seed money to grow the game internationally, while being simultaneously exclusionary in two very public regards.
"They are a brilliant catalyst for the development of golf," he said. "But this is a very high-profile part – it's a chink.
"One of the things about golf is that it is universal.
"It is for men and women, boys and girls, five to 90, and we want it to be inclusive."
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