Golf fans need to support new measures for the sport to resume, says Paul McGinley
"This is a moment for all stakeholders in golf to collaborate, communicate and support each other. Having open minds could well protect the sport and some of its historic events from spiralling into crisis"
Last Updated: 26/04/20 11:38am
Professional golf is scheduled to return in the summer, but the spectacle of having no spectators is one of many new measures that fans need to support, says Paul McGinley.
As we hopefully near the end of extreme measures in the current lockdown and look towards the rest of 2020, it is highly unlikely that either sporting bodies or international governments are going to allow mass gatherings to any event, sporting or otherwise.
Extreme caution is of necessity until a vaccine is found. I think everybody is in agreement with that, but what will it mean for sport in general, golf in particular, and how is this likely to play out?
The PGA Tour have scheduled four tournaments, starting in June, to be played without spectators. They will be most fortunate to have access to several hundred thousand testing kits ahead of these events. Combined with quarantining, social distancing and restrictions allowing selected key personnel on site, I actually think they may well be able to pull this off.
It will take a lot of work and careful monitoring but is achievable if everyone involved accepts and abides by the measures that will be essential to create a safe environment for players, caddies and officials.
Alongside our becoming acquainted with watching other sports played behind closed doors and, assuming that this is successful, a "new norm" for watching sport will likely be created. We will be able to visually enjoy our sports again through TV coverage, with no spectators; a welcome return to our enjoyment of sport from our sofas, albeit not like we are used to.
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The recent talk of playing without spectators has been mainly around the staging of the Ryder Cup in September. The proposed restrictions envisage the exclusion of crowds extending to all the major golf championships, including the Masters, as well as to other sports including football and the English Premier League.
Take football as an example. In all probability Liverpool, having dominated the season, will be crowned Premier League champions. They deserve to be lifting that trophy in front of a packed and jubilant Anfield, saluting their adoring fans on the Kop and enjoying the experience of a first league title in 30 years.
But, being honest, we are unlikely to see those scenes this year. Even if they do manage to finish the season, it is likely that the trophy will be lifted in front of an empty Kop. Nonetheless we could still witness this 'iconic moment' through TV. Not ideal, but memorable and still enjoyable unless, of course, you happen to be an Everton or a Manchester United fan!
Protect and support
Although it is tempting to cancel events for the rest of the year and start again in 2021, let us consider some financial ramifications of cancellation. In a world turned upside down at the moment, sport is counting the cost - and not just financially.
The industry will be affected more than most due to its high dependence on crowds not only for the creation of atmosphere but in particular for the revenue that is generated. It is also likely to be one of the last industries to emerge from full lockdown restrictions, so financial sustainability will be tougher.
The suspension of play in men's professional golf is made even more complex by the number of different independent governing bodies involved. There are seven different owners of the elite golf events and Tours in the world. Each relies heavily for their sustainability on incomes derived from the playing of events they administer.
Their insurance policies are unlikely to include a worldwide pandemic like this which gives rise to a number of questions for each organisation:
- In the face of the financial implications that could potentially range anywhere from cash flow issues to bankruptcy, can they realistically afford the extreme measure of cancellation?
- Do they have enough in the coffers to put everything on hold for the rest of an uncertain 2020?
- Have they got the financial resources to tide them over and ensure employment of their staff until professional competition resumes in its entirety?
- Can they feel certain that 2021 will definitely be back to normal?
Until the answers to questions such as these are established, we cannot dismiss the idea of any sporting event being played behind closed doors.
These organisations need to be protected, and we need to be ready to support them if this is their time of need, or should any of them take a similar stance to Premier League football clubs and say that they were not in a financial position to cancel.
This is a moment for all stakeholders in golf to continue to collaborate, communicate and support each other. We have no similar experience in modern times to look back on and to learn from. Having open minds could well protect the sport and some of its historic events from spiralling into crisis.
There needs to be collaborative sharing of thinking and a sense of camaraderie. We all want our sports to be back to what they were and, in time, they will be. But in the meantime let us embrace the "new norm" for what it is - an unwanted and unwelcome intruder that we will face together and ultimately control.
In the meantime, let us make the most of whatever degree of playing participation and spectatorship we are able to achieve.
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