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European Tour agrees to independant audit

The European Tour has agreed to an independent audit of its accounts to appease leading golfers but the players' accountants will not be allowed to inspect the books.

An extraordinary general meeting of the Tour was called after players, including Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal, demanded more information on the organisation's finances.

The total prize money in Europe has increased from around 600,000 pounds in 1975 to more than 43 million pounds last year.

At the meeting tour officials agreed to an outside audit, but by their choice of accountants, with a view to the report being available for discussion at the first compulsory meeting of the tour in May 2001.

European Tour director Ken Schofield expressed his disappointment that the players did not trust his Executive Committee's handling of financial issues. He pledged more communication with members but denied them total access to the accounts claiming it would compromise contracts with broadcasters.

He said: "My one disappointment is that there should have been a perception in any quarter that the Tour Executive did not operate within company law.

"It is very negative but hopefully this perception no longer exists. Now we know that personal communication with our members must be a higher priority.

"We now know what are doing is not enough. We can disclose what proportion of our expenditure goes where but we cannot say which broadcasters gave us what, due to confidentiality clauses on their contracts.

"Total access to the accounts is not possible under UK company law."

Neil Coles, the European Tour chairman, believes the showdown atmosphere at Wentworth has done nothing to promote the Tour's image.

"We don't feel we have won the day. We've listened to Nick and Jose-Maria and will incorporate their views into our resolution. Hopefully we can produce accounts with more clarity in the future.

"However, there were no winners or losers."

The golfers have appointed a team of lawyers to look after their affairs and will hold further talks in the new year.

"Everyone agreed that there was a lack of transparency with the numbers in the books," said Olazabal.

"The accounts are not detailed enough but the tour are willing to be more clear and an audit will be done.

"We need to sit down and continue our discussions, with our lawyers. It is not over yet."

The rebels want to know why the tour's television section, European Tour Productions, made a profit of only 46,000 pounds from sales of nearly 16 million pounds, according to media reports.

They also want parity with American professionals as far as pension schemes are concerned.

"We are satisfied but there is still a lot of talking to be done," said Faldo. "One of the major issues is the tour pensions fund. Some players spend 25 years on tour and come out with nothing.

"We have been pursuing this for eight years and we have nothing to show for it. I'm all right but it is the young guys who stay in Europe and support the tour that matter.

"It was a good first step but we need more dialogue. We are a small team trying to get the wheels in motion over these issues."



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