SGU chairman adamant that merger is vital to the future of the game
TOM CRAIG, the chairman of the SGU, has warned that Scottish golf faces a ‘bleak’ future if the Scottish Golf Union and Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association do not amalgamate.
Craig, who led SGU representation on a Joint Working Group that has been coordinating efforts to finally drive home the merger, told the latest edition of bunkered magazine that the proposal simply cannot afford to fail like the previous bid to merge the two bodies did in May 2011.
He warned that rejecting the latest motion would have serious implications for the game at all levels.
“It would be like taking a very big gun and shooting it at our feet,” explained Craig. “Financially, it would be disastrous. It sends a terrible message to our commercial sponsors, sportscotland and the Government about where they are investing their funding.
“On its own, that would be bad enough but, when you consider that membership revenue is also declining, it would be terrible. Broadly speaking, the membership of golf clubs has diminished by around 17% in the last decade.
“In recent years, the SGU and SLGA have invested considerably in providing a range of services to help clubs arrest that decline and improve their businesses. We can only continue to do that so long as we keep on receiving the funding we currently get.
“Without it, those services would be affected and the number of golf club members will inevitably decline. That will lead to more course closures and will also make it harder to identify and develop young talent, which, in time, will unquestionably have a knock-on effect in the number of tour pros we are able to produce. It’s a Catch-22. “
Craig added that failing to amalgamate would also do major damage to the game’s reputation
“From an image point of view, it would be calamitous,” he added. “Not amalgamating sends a message that we are living in the past, that we have absolutely failed to come into the 21st century, we’re divided, we’re not welcoming to men and women on an equal basis and so on.
“That, in turn, will harm clubs in their ongoing efforts to attract people into the game, which, ultimately, will relate back to the first point about revenue. We would go into a spiral of decline, which would be enormously difficult to stop.”
Fortunately, the first major hurdle in amalgamating the two bodies has been overcome with the SLGA’s members voting unanimously in favour of the motion at the organisation’s recent AGM.
All 204 votes went in favour of the proposal to the delight of Craig’s SLGA counterpart Beth Paterson.
“We are delighted the voting members of the SLGA have backed the proposal to amalgamate with the SGU,” noted Paterson. “We would like to thank our members for their patience during the consultation process.”
The SGU’s voting members – comprising its 16 Area Associations – will soon have their say and are expected to take their lead from the results of a comprehensive, independent poll of all Scottish golf clubs, carried out by 4 global Consulting, which concluded on February 27.
It was the Area Associations who blocked the previous amalgamation attempt in 2011, voting against it by a 10-6 majority. On that occasion, however, no poll of Scotland’s clubs had been conducted.