Friday, 15 May 2020

Fears expressed about some Scottish golf clubs ‘being on the edge’ of abyss

By Martin Demp­ster
The Scotsman
14 May 2020

As Scot­tish golf clubs en­ter an eighth week of lock­down, fears have been ex­pressed that “quite a few could be on the edge” of fi­nan­cial abyss due to the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

The mes­sage has been de­liv­ered by of­fi­cials at grass­roots level in the Scot­tish game as clubs face sig­nif­i­cant rev­enue losses in the big­gest cri­sis to hit the sport.

While no club in the home of golf has yet ad­mit­ted pub­licly to be­ing in dire straits, it is be­lieved that a num­ber are tee­ter­ing on the brink around the coun­try de­spite sup­port from both Scot­tish Golf and the lo­cal Area As­so­ci­a­tions.

“None of our mem­ber clubs has come for­ward to say they are strug­gling, but my guess is that quite a few could be on the edge,” Ge­orge Young, sec­re­tary of the North East District, told The Scots­man.

Echo­ing that view, his North coun­ter­part, Peter Abbot, ad­mit­ted: “We have a num­ber of clubs strug­gling at the mo­ment and no in­come isn’t help­ing.”

A sim­i­lar story was re­ported in the south of the coun­try by Bor­ders sec­re­tary Roy Thom­son, who said: “We are aware of at least three clubs cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties to vary­ing de­grees.”

In Ar­gyll & Bute, home to some of the small­est clubs in the coun­try, the open­ing of cour­ses can’t come quick enough. “None that have in­di­cated so as yet,” said Area sec­re­tary Gra­ham Bolton to be­ing asked if he knew of any clubs in par­tic­u­lar that might be re­ally strug­gling at the mo­ment. “But I think that will de­pend if lock­down re­stric­tions are not lifted soon.”

Most of the 16 Area As­so­ci­a­tions have of­fered re­funds to clubs for the nom­i­nal lo­cal af­fil­i­a­tion fee paid by club mem­bers as part of their an­nual sub­scrip­tion. Those re­funds have ei­ther been in full or 50 per cent, with the Bor­ders, for ex­am­ple, giv­ing £7,500 back to clubs.

At na­tional level, Scot­tish Golf is sup­port­ing clubs to the tune of more than £575,000 by way of a 25 per cent re­fund or re­bate on its af­fil­i­a­tion fee of £14.50 per mem­ber.

Since tak­ing over the reins of the gov­ern­ing body fol­low­ing An­drew Mckin­lay’s shock and sud­den de­par­ture, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Karin Sharp has been spend­ing most of her time com­mu­ni­cat­ing with clubs and the Area as­so­ci­a­tions, with the mes­sage to her from the lat­ter ap­pear­ing to be mixed.

“I think Scot­tish Golf are try­ing to do their best in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances,” said Glas­gow sec­re­tary Mark Jamieson, ex­press­ing a view shared by Young and Thom­son, as well as David Doig (Loth­i­ans) and Dave Mcpher­son (Fife).

“I do re­ally be­lieve that they are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to” as­sist clubs, but are driven di­rectly with what they phys­i­cally and fi­nan­cially can achieve in do­ing so,” said Doig. “I don’t think they wish to pro­vide false prom­ises and can eas­ily be caught out if they do some­thing that they can then no longer de­liver.”

Mcpher­son added: “Scot­tish Golf of­fer what they can in the way of ad­vice. I’m sure if any club was to con­tact them with a spe­cific prob­lem, then they would do their best to help.”

But Alas­dair Mal­colm (Ayr­shire), Iain Sto­rie (Ren­frew­shire) and John Struthers (Dum­bar­ton­shire) all claim that the gov­ern­ing body should have been of­fer­ing at least 50 per cent to mem­ber clubs for that af­fil­i­a­tion fee re­fund or re­bate.

“The SGL sub­scrip­tion is of­ten the great­est out­lay many of the mem­ber clubs have all sea­son,” said Mal­colm.

“Skirt­ing around the is­sues with ad­vice and web pre­sen­ta­tions is all very well, but clubs need prac­ti­cal ac­tion at the mo­ment.

“I am aware of at least a cou­ple of our clubs who have writ­ten to SGL mak­ing that very point.”

Claim­ing that a larger per­cent­age re­bate would have been bet­ter in the cur­rent cli­mate, Stor­rie said: “I would sug­gest that could have been ef­fec­tive for next sea­son, to al­low mem­bers to ben­e­fit di­rectly.”

On the com­pe­ti­tion front, it will be slim pickings for golfers all around the coun­try. Scot­tish Golf has scrapped its en­tire 2020 sched­ule while the Area scene, still fairly vi­brant nor­mally, looks set to be dec­i­mated.

“We have can­celled our first three events,” said Bolton of the sit­u­a­tion in Ar­gyll & Bute. “We are still hope­ful about run­ning our main events, but that is all de­pen­dent on lock­down re­stric­tions and whether com­pet­i­tive golf is pos­si­ble.”

In Dum­bar­ton­shire, all the fix­tures have been can­celled, but Struthers said: “If pos­si­ble, we will look to run the ju­nior and gent’s cham­pi­onships at the end of the sea­son.”

Else­where, the de­ci­sion de­pends on how long Scot­tish clubs have to wait to join their English neigh­bours in re­open­ing. “We are still hope­ful to run some tour­na­ments, but the longer the lock­down con­tin­ues the slim­mer the chances of do­ing so,” said Young of the plan in the North East.

“None of our mem­ber clubs in the North East have come for­ward to say they are strug­gling, but my guess is that quite a few could be on­theedge”


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