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R&A urged to consider policy on male-only clubs that stage Open Championships

Updated: Saturday, 18 Jan 2014 10:40 | Comments

Muirfield is one of the male-only clubs on the Open rota
Muirfield is one of the male-only clubs on the Open rota

An end to the R&A's policy that frequently sees the Open taken to male-only clubs could be in sight, according to one of the championship's sponsors.

"I think things are moving," HSBC's global head of sponsorship and events Giles Morgan said on Saturday. "It's not something we are going to put a gun to anyone's head over, but we would like to see it solved so we don't keep talking about it."

Ahead of last year's Open at Muirfield, in East Lothian, chief executive Peter Dawson said it would take a "hard push" for the R&A to change its policy, despite "political posturing" and attacks by pressure groups.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond was among the political figures who stayed away from Muirfield, describing the club's membership policy as "indefensible in the 21st century".

Similar protests occur when the championship is staged at Royal St George's and Troon - the other clubs on the nine-strong Open rota to be men-only - but Dawson said the R&A was inclined to resist such pressure, despite finding the issue "increasingly difficult."

Speaking at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Morgan said "very few" of the bank's customers complain about its association with the Open, but added: "The R&A are clear that it's a very uneasy position for the bank.

"When you are showcasing one of the world's greatest tournaments it would be much more palatable if the events were played where there was not the sense of segregation.

"We would like to see it get solved so we don't keep talking about it. I don't want to be in a position where we have to justify our sponsorship.

"I think things are moving. They are doing a lot of research. They've been asking a lot of sponsors and stakeholders, which they did over the last three or four months. They are acutely aware that things need to change and move on.

"What I do think they are doing right is that they are spending some proper consultancy time looking at this rather than knee-jerking to a sort of populist decision.

"Through what they research I think they will end up with the right answer. I just feel that for the good of the game - and this is why they are doing the consultancy they are - it's looked at properly and then they can face the golfing world properly and say this is our decision based on a lot of consulting with the important and right people in the game of golf. What that decision is is up to the R&A."

Asked about the power sponsors could have to influence the R&A's decision, Morgan added: "I think the Olympics is a far more potent and powerful consideration.

"We all know that the thing about the Olympics is it's about men and women playing on the world stage, and to be part of the Olympic family there are certain stipulations that need to adhered to.

"I feel the right processes are happening where it's been properly thought through rather than not being discussed and hoping it will go away."
Troon is due to host the Open in 2016.

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