English golf fans have missed out on the chance of seeing the world’s best women golfers because of a lack of Government support.
That was the scathing condemnation from Paul Gibbons, joint-owner with his wife Jennifer of the Leaderboard Group, which has lost out to Ireland in a bidding war for the 2011 Solheim Cup.
As we reported last Friday, the Ladies European Tour has awarded the 2011 event to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Killeen Castle course, in County Meath. The Irish course, which is not scheduled to open until autumn 2008, is believed to have received a staggering €11m from the Irish Government towards its bid.
Leaderboard’s bid, which would have taken the event to The Oxfordshire GC, was worth €3m – all of which would have come from Gibbons’ personal fortune.
Gibbons was disappointed no Government support was forthcoming for the Leaderboard bid which would have brought the Solheim Cup to an English venue for the first time in its history. He said, “Every other country bidding for the Solheim Cup received substantial financial support from their respective Governments. But our Government claimed it could not be seen to be supporting an English bid when a Scottish venue was also bidding.
“The irony of that of course is that with a devolved government sitting in Edinburgh, the Scottish bid did receive governmental backing. Because of this bureaucratic imbalance, England has lost the opportunity to see the world’s best women golfers in action.”
The Oxfordshire received top reviews from the Solheim Cup’s inspection team and despite the financial gulf between the two bids, it was still a close-run thing according to an LET insider.
Gibbons added, “We felt we had the advantage in terms of venue. The Oxfordshire has hosted European Tour events and our infrastructure was as good as anybody else’s. However, the finances involved in the Irish bid will secure a bright future for the LET for some time to come.
“And that’s what Tour officials have to look at. I don’t blame them for reaching the decision they have; I am just sorely disappointed that the chance of a lifetime has passed by for the people of Oxfordshire because of political expedience.
“Whoever said politics should be kept out of sport was, unfortunately, simply an idealist.”
Gibbons added, “I would just like to thank everybody concerned with the bid within the Leaderboard Group for all the effort and hard work which went into it. I’d also like to thank the English golf media – and particularly our local paper the Oxford Mail – for its unstinting support during the bid process.”
Leaderboard Group www.leaderboardgolf.co.uk