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Open Championship could charge hosting fee- 22 Apr 2009 00:00:00

Golf’s Open Championship is feeling the impact of the recession with sponsorship and corporate hospitality revenue down on last year – a scenario that has led rights holder the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to consider charging course owners for the privilege of hosting the prestigious tournament.

The R&A has confirmed that hospitality take-up is 15-20% down for this year’s event at Turnberry, with the likes of Royal Bank of Scotland understood to be amongst those slashing such budgets.

The move has led to suggestions that it could place a hosting fee on the various courses which traditionally have hosted the Open especially after it emerged that Leisurecorp, which owns Turnberry will heavily promote its activities at the championship.

No money will change hands for the use of these commercial rights, but the R&A says it will look into the matter and consider a rights fee in future.

David Hill, the R&A director of championships, said: ‘We announced this venue before Leisurecorp came in. At every other golf club that stages the Open we pay a facility fee to compensate the members for the closure of their course. At Turnberry they waived the facility fee.

‘They probably should be charged and we might look at that in a different light in future years. But we don't want Leisurecorp or anyone else dictating the do's or don't's of running the Open. If you press them too hard, the next thing is they're laying down conditions.’

Despite the drop in revenues, The R&A is reasonably well placed to weather the corporate downturn, thanks largely to its television deals with the BBC and, as of next year, ESPN, which has signed an eight-year contract thought to be worth close to $200 million to show the event in the US, Asia and Latin America.

These deals bring in the bulk of the R&A’s £35-40m annual revenue, a figure that is unlikely to rise this year. With Turnberry expected to attract only 115,000 paying spectators, well below the 200,000 at Birkdale last year, prize money is likely to be frozen.

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