Scottish Open under threat without Barclays

 

The future of the Scottish Open has been thrown into jeopardy with yesterday's surprise announcement that Barclays are not renewing their sponsorship after a nine-year association. The bank cited "market forces" as the reason behind their withdrawal.

While the European Tour donned a brave face, they will be worried on a few fronts. The first is the very urgent concern of finding a replacement backer willing to stump up the £3m prize fund, and other significant expenses, to stage one of their calendar's most prestigious events. The other, longer-term cause for unease, will be what this will mean to other bank sponsorships, which form a significant chunk of the Tour's portfolio.

The Tour had been confident of striking anew deal with Barclays. The banking giants were supposedly pleased with the tournament's move to a new home – Castle Stuart in Inverness. After 15 years at Loch Lomond the switch to links was almost unanimously welcomed as appropriate for the event leading into the Open Championship. Boasting five of the world's top 10, this year's field was arguably the strongest in the Scottish Open's history.

Even the freak downpours which reduced the event to 54 holes could not dampen the optimism as the world No 1, Luke Donald, romped home. George O'Grady, the Tour's chief executive, then declared "the talks with Barclays are ongoing and everybody is very positive".

"Barclays have announced the Barclays Classic in the United States will continue until 2016," added O'Grady. "We will announce something as soon as we can but they are a very, very positive sponsor who know how golf works."

Two months on and what worked for Barclays in the US, plainly does not over here. That, no doubt, has plenty to do with the British backlash against banking institutions. But it also does not say much about the Scottish Open's standing, despite its venue and privileged place in the diary. Barclays will continue to be Phil Mickelson's main backer as well as carrying on sponsoring the Barclays Open in Singapore.

It will be embarrassing, and deeply foreboding, if the Tour cannot find a backer in the forthcoming months. It is also one of only two professional male tournaments, outside of the majors, which is broadcast on terrestrial TV. This year's Irish Open did not have a titled sponsor and was heavily bankrolled from the Tour's own coffers.

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