The decision to work more closely with fewer organisations was correct, writes Craig Tracey MP (North Warwickshire) Co-Chair APPG For Golf
In 2016, the Parliamentary Golf Group hosted the launch of the R&A’s report into the economic impact of the sport to the UK economy. Such is the scale of financial benefit to the UK through golf that Members of Parliament held a debate in the House of Commons’ chamber a few weeks later.
With employment levels quoted of nearly 75,000 and £4.3billion spent by golfers, UK golf delivered £990 million in tax to the exchequer. With these sorts of numbers it is clear that golf is not just a sport, it is a substantial industry.
However, golf suffers from a level of fragmentation that many industries of a similar size simply do not. This is in part due to the long history of the game, pre-dating sporting structures and regulation that we see today, often resulting in a single or small number of stakeholders who act as custodians of their part of their game. In golf, we see different elements being represented by different organisations and speaking with different, albeit often aligned, voices.
For those responsible for public funding of sport this is a challenge. Why should some funding be provided to a project or programme that looks very similar to others and if one project is supported, does that mean all others with the same objectives must receive similar support?
Whilst these are not directly decisions for backbench Members of Parliament, through the APPG we can make a powerful case for golf more broadly and, to do that best, steps have been taken since I last wrote for Golf Business News.
The most fundamental and important step for the Group was the decision to restructure. Non-Parliamentary membership of the Group has closed, with membership ceasing in summer 2020. We will continue to hold open meetings at different points of the year to hear from golfers.
In the meantime, we will seek to work with stakeholders to a greater, more strategic and overarching level with the intention to use the Group’s unique position to bring disparate voices to the table at a senior level and encourage consensus that can then be articulated to government.
To begin that process, I invited several major stakeholders in the game to Parliament to discuss how that might be implemented from their perspective, and where they feel we in Parliament can add the most value to the game. That was as frank a conversation as it was positive.
It was clear from all that issues can be seen and that positive steps are being taken to address them. The best example of this is female participation. Everyone understands the issue at the highest level, their part in how it manifests, and the benefit of more people playing. Most importantly, each organisation or body represented in the room was doing something to address it and there are some outstanding projects, programmes, competitions and formats in place.
However, most fundamentally, so many are operating in silos and with so many schemes in place, one only has to look at the social media hashtags to see how easy it is for any single message to be lost.
I took two things from that meeting. The first is that the Group should be operating like others in Parliament that represent industries, and that the decision to work more closely with fewer organisations was the correct course to take. Secondly, that everyone wants the same results and there is a recognition that working together will mean the sport gets there more quickly.
It is now down to the Group to play a role to encourage all those involved in leading golf to do that by working together more closely on certain areas. It is my hope that when the R&A commission a second report on the economic benefit of golf to the UK, we will see a substantial upturn across the board.
All Party Parliamentary Golf Group www.parliamentary.golf