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 ROBERT GREEN
 Another Thing

No sooner is this one over...
The 2010 Ryder Cup might be remembered for its grim weather and it certainly will be for its dramatic denouement. The next question for the great competition is where to next?

At the recent Ryder Cup, Captain Colin Montgomerie explained the addition of a fifth vice-captain thus: “José Maria [Olazábal] is here as an ambassador for Nespresso coffee…so we drafted him in.” The likelihood seems that Olazábal will be drafted in as the main man himself when Europe seeks to retain the Cup in Chicago in 2012, making him the third continental captain, following Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer. But what about future continental venues, of which there has only been one – Valderrama in Spain in 1997 – to date?

In September 2001, when Celtic Manor was confirmed as the venue for 2010 and Gleneagles for 2014 (this after much internal politicking between the European Tour and the PGA), Ken Schofield, the then Tour executive director, declared that the subsequent four matches in Europe would be held on the continent.

“France, Germany and Sweden have, like Spain, long been in the forefront in advancing professional golf…Italy and other nations…will similarly see the opportunity to host future matches,” he said. As this magazine noted at the time: “Schofield has got the deal he wanted in the short term, and in the long term he won’t be around to have to handle the consequences of the fact that the competition will apparently not return to Britain until 2034.”

And he isn’t. George O’Grady is now the Tour’s chief executive. Early last year, he said: “I think the intention, using our best endeavours, is to get to countries and areas that have supported and contributed to the development of the European Tour. If we can manage the twin pillars of getting the right financial arrangements and benefiting golf in Europe, there is no reason why it should not happen that the four matches after Gleneagles will be held on the continent.”

He added: “It would have to be a stunning offer for it to come back to the British Isles [before then, but] we will not compromise the Ryder Cup just because we have said it will next go to the continent.” In other words, and a statement of fact, Schofield’s ‘promise’ in 2001 is not binding on the Tour.

Nevertheless, despite all the euphoria for European golf created by events, if not the elements, at Celtic Manor, there is indeed a possibility that the matches might not return to the UK for 20 years after 2014, and a significant probability that they won’t before 2026. The Tour has before it five bids for the 2018 match – from France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Spain. Says David MacLaren, the European Tour’s director of property & venue development: “We have been massively impressed by the quality of all the proposals. All we are considering at present are bids for 2018 and I have to say they show that these prospective hosts on the continent have really understood what staging the Ryder Cup is all about. We are not saying there is no chance that the UK might host the 2022 Ryder Cup but, as I say, although this process is only about 2018, the proposals we have are very strong.”

The eager candidates have been asked to consider five criteria in submitting their applications – that they provide a world-class golf facility (the course itself need not exist at present, which is just as well because only France’s does); that it has an excellent infrastructure; there needs to be substantial government and private-sector support for the bid; the European Tour wants an ongoing relationship with the host venue, in order to maximize its own commercial returns from the event; and there must be a contribution from that country towards the development of the game. For example, Portugal has never provided a player for the Ryder Cup but it is a great focus of golf tourism. For Germany, it’s the other way around.

The fourth point is crucial to the abiding prosperity of the Tour. As O’Grady said at Celtic Manor: “The Ryder Cup is [like] the major championship of the European Tour. We don’t have [one] every year; we have got one home match every four years. Everything we do is driven by it, including TV contracts. It makes the fields stronger in other tournaments through the year. We have developed other key events but the Ryder Cup is the pinnacle of what we do.”

The announcement regarding the venue for 2018 will be made in April. “As of now,” says MacLaren, “we do not anticipate there being a double announcement, as there was in 2001 about 2010 and 2014.” Olazábal, needless to say, is hoping for a Spanish victory.

November 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 






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