Saturday, 6 June 2020

£7m R&A funding will filter down to golf clubs but is ‘not a rescue package’

By Martin Dempster ( The Scotsman) 

All home nations are receiving a share based on number of clubs in each country

The R&A has said its recently-launched £7 million Covid-19 Fund is not a “rescue package” but, at the same time, is looking for national associations to use it to support clubs through a “difficult period”.

Since it was unveiled just over a fortnight ago, the fund has been “very well received” by national associations and other affiliated bodies in Great Britain and Ireland as it aims to help golf deal with the impact of the pandemic.

The R&A has set out guidelines about how the fund should be used by the likes of Scottish Golf and the other home unions, with the process for it filtering into clubs currently being finalised.

“A small number of national associations have been in touch so far, with more anticipated, and, following collective discussion with the home nations, they are now working on their plans and proposals,” a spokesperson for the R&A told The Scotsman.

“The funding will be spent where it can have the most impact. Within GB&I, each home nation is receiving a share based on the number of golf courses in their country. The process is already underway and, within the four home nations, we would reasonably expect grants to be reaching clubs by mid-summer.”

While courses around the UK and Ireland have now reopened, they all suffered a significant loss of revenue just as the new season was about to swing into action.

A number of clubs are now enjoying a boost in membership due to golf being one of the first outdoor sports activities to be allowed as lockdown restrictions are eased, but many still face an uncertain future.

“We don’t see this as a rescue package and haven’t described it as such,” added the spokesperson in reply to being asked if it was hoped the fund can make the difference in some clubs surviving a nine-week closure.

“But we do expect the funds to be allocated in ways to support clubs through what has been and will be a difficult period. Funds will be allocated by our affiliates where they believe the money will have the most impact.”

Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, described the club scene as the “bedrock of our sport” when the fund was launched, adding the governing body had a “responsibility to do what we can to help in such a crisis”.

That is why the fund is being aimed at clubs facing “serious financial difficulties”, though, at the same time associations are being encouraged to use it for “other activities key to the future of the sport”.

Asked to expand on that, the spokesperson said: “As well as supporting golf clubs, we hope some of the funding will be spent on initiatives which we believe will help golf longer term. These include more clubs signing up to The R&A Women in Golf Charter, encouraging family play, ready golf, shorter forms of play and more.”

Scottish Golf said it will provide an update to member clubs about how it aims to utilise the fund as soon as the nuts and bolts are in place.

“Having welcomed the funding package for clubs affected by Covid-19, we are now in the process of developing an application framework that aligns to the overarching criteria of the fund and will update all affiliated clubs here in Scotland of the next steps, outlining how and when applications can be made, before the end of the month,” said 
a statement.

Meantime Scottish Golf’s AGM which was postponed in March as the coronavirus started to hit, has been rescheduled for 25th June, when it will be conducted via video and audio conference call.