Leading figures in European golf have called for a summit conference next spring to address the sport’s lack of terrestrial television exposure.
Members of the European Golf Industry Association assembled last month for their annual summer meeting at Stoke Poges Golf Club, and uppermost in their minds was the shortage of people taking up the game.
Mike Johnson, chief executive of the British Sports Industries Federation, led the debate, saying: “It’s high time something was done about this situation. Nearly every big tournament is now hidden away on satellite television and the effects of this are being seen in our dropping sales figures and dwindling number of customers.
“It stands to reason that putting a tournament on Sky is going to hurt us as an industry because it is only going to be watched by an audience of people who are already committed to the game. What we want is to get back to the situation of the 1980s when there was a tournament on terrestrial TV seemingly every week.
“It is no coincidence that those were the days when the sport was growing. We need to sit down as early as next spring if possible with those responsible for TV schedules and the organisers and sponsors of the big tournaments to have a proper adult discussion about this problem. We can’t sit on the fence on this issue any longer because it is hurting our industry.”
Johnson’s comments were heartily endorsed by EGIA chairman Bob Clark, who said: “We desperately need to have this debate and make sure that the right people hear what we have to say. It’s not happening at the moment, so we’re not getting the chance to put our point of view.”
Apart from the Open, three European Tour events, the Cisco World Match Play Championship and the Weetabix Women’s British Open, live TV coverage tournament golf in Europe and America, most notably next week’s Ryder Cup, is currently confined to satellite channels.
Better news for the industry came when EGIA executive secretary Jacqui Baldwin announced that 23 British companies would receive DTI funding to exhibit at the Golf Europe’99 show in Munich from October 3-5. A further six British companies will also exhibit in Munich, but independently of the EGIA-sponsored stands. In addition, the British consulate in Munich will host a get-together on the evening of Sunday, October 3 for British exhibitors with buyers, distributors and agents from Sweden, Germany, Italy and France The meeting ended with a presentation about the GolfExpo show in November 2000 from representatives of the NEC, its new owners. A decision on whether to press ahead with plans for the show to have a public element and confirmation of the dates are expected at the end of this month.