Charity calls for sponsor boycott of the Open
A charity that aims to get more women involved in sport has called for sponsors of the Open to pull out as the host golf club does not allow women to be members.
WSFF (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation), which counts Conservative MP Tracey Crouch as one of its trustees, has said that hosting the world famous golf tournament at Muirfield, a men-only golf club, is “damaging to the sport”.
“The R&A [golf’s governing body] is deeply out of touch with both golfers and the wider general public,” said a spokeswoman. “WSFF is urging the public to contact the sponsors of the tournament, such as Mastercard, Ralph Lauren and HSBC, to urge them to withdraw sponsorship unless the Open is held at clubs that allow women to join in future.”
The announcement comes as a new survey of British adults, commissioned by WSFF, has found that the vast majority do not think that men-only clubs should be allowed to host the Open Championship.
The Ipsos MORI survey of more than 2,000 people found that the majority of golfers, 62 percent, believe that having men-only clubs hosting the tournament makes it less likely for women to take up golf, and that more golfers than non-golfers (56 percent) think this.
Just 15 percent of British adults agree that clubs with male-only policies should be selected to host the Open and just seven percent of adults think golf clubs should be allowed to restrict membership to one sex. Meanwhile, 60 percent of women believe that companies should not sponsor the Open when it is held at a club that bans female members.
Commenting, WSFF chief executive Sue Tibballs said: “It is clear that the R&A is totally out of step with public opinion and with the vast majority of golfers in the country.
“Muirfield’s sexist membership policies are absurd in the 21st century, and holding the Open at a club that bans women members is damaging to the sport. A number of golfing bodies are working very hard to break down the traditional perceptions of the sport and encourage a new generation of female participants, and these clubs do nothing to help that cause.
“It is frankly embarrassing that out of all the major golf tournaments in the world, the Open is the only one hosted by a club that doesn’t allow women to be members. This kind of policy is outdated, out of touch and it’s bad for golf.”
Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, told CNN recently that the issue has been blown out of proportion.
“Single sex clubs are still something of a feature in Scotland,” he said. “It’s a historical thing actually because women came to the game of golf when men were already established.
“It’s something that is reported as an issue far more than the actuality of it. We have a situation where about one percent of clubs in the UK are single sex – it’s a very small number.
“Golf has moved on from the stereotypes of 50 years ago. It is chalk and cheese and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the year ahead.”