Money split puts Ryder in the storm

Who's being crafty over Crofty?
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The Independent Online

Despite being most people's definition of a golfing wild card, John Daly has never been invited to play in the Ryder Cup and, what's more, couldn't care less. Before attempting to pulverise the Nord Eichenreid course in the BMW International in Munich this weekend, he said: "It has got to the point where they might as well wear boxing gloves and beat the shit out of each other."

It's a novel suggestion but the players would have to wait for the boxing gloves until the administrators have finished with them. There are some heavy punches being thrown behind the Ryder Cup scenes and the conflict is just emerging into public view. Later today, we'll know the full identity of the European team to meet the United States in the 2001 Ryder Cup which takes place at The Belfry in four weeks' time and the build-up to this volatile event can begin in earnest.

But the civil war now in progress between the Professional Golfers' Association and the European Tour – revealed in all its startling ferocity in this newspaper today by Lauren St John on page 12 – is likely to dominate the pre-cup publicity in a manner that the media's best ballyhoo experts would be hard-pressed to out-hype.

Once the team is announced the players will almost certainly join in because part of the dispute involves money and leading members of the European team are unhappy about the way the profits are distributed. While they want none for themselves, they want a direct input into where the money goes.

This desire has yet to harden into a demand but I wouldn't be surprised if it soon did. The last thing that Sam Torrance, the European captain, needs is a distraction of this magnitude, but the determination of the players will in no way be diluted by the fact that this year, for the first time, the US team will each receive $200,000 to give to their favourite charity and university. The Americans have found it easier to surrender on this issue because the US PGA are the sole controllers of the Ryder Cup on that side of the Atlantic. On this side, there are two bodies and suddenly we realise what a quarrelsome twosome they are.

When Samuel Ryder donated a gold trophy to the PGA in 1926 for use in a match to promote "goodwill" between British and American golfers it carried no hint of future problems because all British professionals belonged to the same organisation, the PGA.

In 1971, however, those pros who made most of their living from playing in tournaments broke away from those who earned their keep solely by being employed by clubs to form the European Tour. Since the Ryder Cup made little money in those days the split carried no financial implications.

But by 1991 the cup had captured a soaring commercial value and the Tour demanded their share. After all, it was their players who were responsible for creating this source of revenue.

After a prolonged argument they agreed to a 50-50 division of the proceeds. Gross profits from the event have risen from £300,000 in 1985 to £4.5m when it was last held in Europe, at Valderrama in 1997.

Figures from The Belfry are likely to top that and neither the Tour nor the players believe that 50-50 is any longer a fair split. Let no one doubt that the players will get bolshie over this. Already this year they have rebelled against what they saw as too much secrecy in the Tour's accounting procedures. They went as far as to demand an audit so they are unlikely to show restraint when it comes to the PGA particularly as that organisation is totally British and about half of the team comes from continental Europe, where none of the money reaches.

Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the PGA, denies that there have been large surpluses in the past but acknowledges the rift and said recently: "If the venture breaks down then it is inevitable that the match will be affected and perhaps we should put the trophy in the cupboard." That would be a calamity only to the traditionalists. As far as most of the players are concerned, the Ryder Cup by any other name would smell as sweet and be as lucrative.

But money is not the only burning issue that divides the two organisations. The choice of future venues is also causing controversy and is centred on the selection procedure for the venue for the cup in the year 2009.

If people are sick and tired of hearing about an event that doesn't take place for another eight years it is because the process has already taken more than 13 months. When the name of the successful candidate is announced at the end of September, 11 months will have elapsed since the final bids were submitted.

The decision was expected at the beginning of the year but was postponed for nine months, much to the dismay of the Welsh who feared that the Scots were being given a chance to improve the quality of their bid.

Scotland had been regarded as the favourites but their bid was not nearly as good as the Welsh submission which, centred on Celtic Manor, surprised everyone for its thoroughness, its financial support from all parts of the nation and the vision it offered for a golfing explosion in the principality.

That vision fits in exactly with the Tour's perspective. They want the event used to develop golf throughout Europe. Sweden, who might soon be providing half the team, is an obvious choice as a future venue while Germany, France and Italy also want the progress the Ryder Cup can bring them.

The disparaging remarks made by Ken Schofield, the Tour's chief executive, on the merits of the Scottish are strong and unprecedented as are his views on the PGA's connections with The Belfry where the Cup will have been held for four of the last five occasions.

Last week, the bookmakers William Hill offered prices on who would stage the event in 2009. Gleneagles was the favourite at 7-4 while Celtic Manor was 3-1. But so many big bets poured in for the Welsh course that betting was suspended. Was that surge the result of a hunch or some acquired knowledge? We'll have to wait and see but it is just one piece of evidence that a famous event has become a shambles.

Conspiracy theorists in Glamorgan have been enjoying a fertile time recently analysing the treatment that the off-spinner, Robert Croft, has been receiving from England's Test selectors this season. We are well known in South Wales for our mutterings about bias against our cricketers – the list goes back long enough to justify a certain amount of sensitivity in this direction – but even the club intend to "have a word" with the England and Wales Cricket Board about Croft's inactivity.

Croft has played in only half of Glamorgan's matches this season, seven out of 14, because of call-ups to the Test squad, but has played in just one Test, against Australia at Trent Bridge, in which he bowled only three overs, taking one wicket for eight runs.

Glamorgan's annoyance at Croft cooling his heels when they needed him reached a peak last weekend. Left out at the Oval in favour of Phil Tufnell, Croft was idle while Glamorgan were being skittled out by the Yorkshire spinner, Richard Dawson, who took six wickets in the first innings at Scarborough.

I was asked by a local radio station to take part in a discussion about whether it was all part of plot by senior England players to keep Croft out of action against their counties. I said that was far-fetched even by my standards.

Happily, Croft was back for Glamorgan last week and took 4 for 18 in 23 balls to help clinch their promotion to the first division of the Norwich Union National League.

He was also called up for England's winter tours to India and New Zealand when a special vigil will be kept. Just because we're paranoid it doesn't mean to say he's not getting a raw deal.

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