Open can withstand the financial crisis, says R&A

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The Independent Online

The Open Championship has been hit by the economic downturn like all other major sporting events, but it will go ahead in July at Turnberry as planned and the cost will not mean less money being spent by the Royal and Ancient Club on promoting the game worldwide.

The R&A chief executive, Peter Dawson, yesterday dismissed as "media hype" a report that nearby Royal Troon had been put on standby because of concerns over whether renovation work at Turnberry's five-star hotel would be completed on time. "That has absolutely never been discussed," said Dawson after the R&A was given assurances by the hotel's owners Leisurecorp that 181 rooms in the resort, primarily for players, would be ready. Corporate hospitality, however, is down 15 to 20 per cent and future sponsorship is uncertain, with long-term backer Royal Bank of Scotland reported to be dramatically scaling down its involvement.

But Dawson stated: "I know they are going to continue in sports sponsorship and we very much hope the Open remains part of that portfolio."

No prize-money figures have been announced for July's championship, but Dawson added: "We have a duty to maintain the event at the forefront of world golf and prize-money is part of that equation. The Open has been the most lucrative of all the four majors in dollar terms for some years, but with the dollar exchange rate having swung back that's a position that is probably going to be difficult for us to maintain.

"Our business model is to have, within the ethos of the Open, as commercially successful an event as we can to finance amateur events, governance of the game and also to have money to support worthy golf projects around the world."

Help is being offered to attract more fans to the event, with £250 being paid to clubs who organise coaches bringing 30 or more people.

The director of championships, David Hill, observed that, while watching rugby at Murrayfield would cost £70 for an 80-minute game, anybody paying the £55 daily entrance fee at Turnberry could see the world's top players in action from dawn to dusk.