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Huge profits predicted for Ryder Cup

September's Ryder Cup match between Europe and the USA at the Belfry, near Birmingham, is on course to make a handsome profit for the European organisers of around £8.5 million - a substantial surplus that will match the profits from the four previous home matches added together.

While American figures for the biennial contest have been freely available for years, financial details about the match in Europe were scanty. Now, however, The Scotsman can reveal it wasnít until the match was held at the Belfry in 1985 (when Europe won by five points) that the contest first turned in a £300,000 profit.

As recently as 20 years ago, when the match was staged at Walton Heath in Surrey, the Ryder Cup reported a deficit of £50,000. This was typical of the eventís mixed fortunes during a period when philanthropy was required to keep the match going. For example, at Lindrick, in Sheffield, in 1957, only the support of a local steel merchant saved the day.

After spending close to 60 years on the breadline, the Ryder Cup finally went into the black in 1985.

Thereafter, the success of the European team in defending the cup at Muirfield Village in Ohio two years later stoked enormous interest for the return to the Belfry in 1989 when the surplus increased to around £1 million.

Thanks to the Sky television deal, the growth of the match accelerated in the Nineties. In 1993 there was an excess of nearly £4 million while the first visit to Spain for the 1997 match at Valderrama generated around £4.25 million.

At least double that sum is expected this year. Looking further ahead, a figure of £10 million is on the cards for the K Club in Ireland in 2005, and a £12 million profit pencilled in for the successful venue in 2009.

In other words, over the next ten years the Ryder Cup will be worth more than £30 million to the organisers, compared to around £8 million in the previous decade.

Itís against this background of rising profitability that a struggle is taking place for control of the eventís future in Europe. At present the six-man Ryder Cup board is made up of equal representation from the Professional Golfers Association and the European Tour.

The Tour, which looks after the interests of the top players, has made it clear it wants a bigger slice of the cake and greater involvement for continental Europe after a team of independent auditors suggested looking at ways of making larger profits for the match.

Although the PGA, which represents club professionals and has been the guardians of the match since 1927, is prepared to negotiate on money matters with the Tour, it is determined to surrender neither its influence nor its 50 per cent representation on the Ryder Cup board.

Figures indicate that while the Ryder Cup has been in profit since 1985, the surpluses have not been quite as grand as some imagined. Indeed, there could be a case for arguing the match underperformed economically in Spain when the margin of profitability at Valderrama only increased by around £250,000 on the previous home contest four years earlier at the Belfry.

Money was clearly not the only motive when the decision was taken to reward Spain for the contribution made by its players to the event.

If the same logic was applied this year, then surely there would be unanimous support for Scotlandís 2009 bid.

Over the past 22 years, only England have provided more players for the team than Scotland. Wales have contributed just one.

A glance at the current Ryder Cup table indicates little has changed in this respect, with no fewer than three Scots filling places in the top ten automatic qualifiers.

For 2009, though, the Tour is known to favour the bid mounted by Celtic Manor in Wales, apparrently because it promises greater financial benefits than the bids made by Slaley Hall in the north of England and Loch Lomond, Turnberry, Gleneagles and Carnoustie in Scotland.

However, since the PGAís chairman, Phil Weaver, will have the casting vote when a decision is reached in September, itís by no means certain yet which of the six venues will eventually come out on top.

One of the duties the Ryder Cup board must fulfill because of their Category ĎBí TV deal with the government, is that five per cent of all broadcasting revenues must be used voluntarily to support the grassroots of the game.

In order to satisfy that condition, the PGA has played a key role in ensuring Ryder Cup money filters down from top to bottom.

According to the PGAís accounts for 1999, investments worth over £300,000 were distributed to deserving cases. Some £30,000 was invested in tournaments for assistant professionals; £50,000 established a training diploma; £24,000 created a careers video for schools; £73,000 promoted National Golf Week; a game improvment unit cost £35,000; £10,000 went to the Golf Foundation junior programme at the Open, and £3,000 to a similar initiative at the Walker Cup; £45,000 went to subsidise the British Pro Tour; and £50,000 to the Challenge Tour.

Similar contributions were made in previous years taking the donation to grassroots golf over the past four-year cycle of the match to around £1 million.

In essence, this means all the cash the PGA received from the last TV deal was spent on growing the game and promoting junior golf.

On top of that, the PGA has invested £250,000 in a training academy at the Belfry, as well as another £250,000 in a new sports science facility due to open in October, thanks to assistance from De Vere Hotels.

Further afield, a donation of £75,000 was pledged last month to the golf union of Ireland for a centre of excellence in Belfast.

The PGA has also been criticised for not doing enough to support golf on the continent.

Yet after the match at Valderrama a cheque for £400,000 was presented to the Spanish Federation to help build a municipal course in Madrid, which is expected to be completed shortly.

While office accommodation and support is also provided for the PGA of Europe, the British PGA sees no reason why it should feel in any way defensive about promoting the game in a country which contains more than half of Europeís golfers.

 


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