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Wales pins its latest tourism drive to the Ryder
A billionaire's dream could attract golf's transatlantic
contest - and big economic benefits
John Cassy, The Guardian, 27 October 2000
A consortium fronted by former England cricketer Tony Lewis
and backed by the Welsh Development Agency will submit a bid tomorrow to the
Professional Golfers Association, the sport's governing body, to host the Ryder
Cup in Wales in 2009. The tournament between Europe and America takes place
once every two years.
If the Welsh bid wins, the consortium believes the
publicity and income generated by the appearance of the likes of Tiger Woods,
Lee Westwood and Serge Garcia at the lavishly constructed complex would place
Wales firmly on the golfing map and give a much-needed economic boost to the
At the centre of the bid is an unusual regeneration
project: the Celtic Manor leisure complex. Overlooking the remnants of Wales'
industrial heartland at the end of the M4 motorway near Newport, this leisure
centre has been built by Terry Matthews, the electronics billionaire. "There is
little doubt that hosting the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor would greatly enhance
the profile of Wales internationally and assist in encouraging overseas firms
to invest in Wales," said Sir David Rowe Beddoe, chairman of the WDA.
The economic case for staging the tournament is compelling.
The last time Europe hosted the Ryder Cup was in 1997 at Valderrama, Spain, and
the local impact was significant. According to the PGA, the immediate economic
benefit to Spain was £52.2m. Spectators spent £33.5m in the
Andalucia region plus £8.5m in other parts of Spain. More than 70% of
spectator spend went into the local economy rather than just the event. Around
£11m was spent on accommodation and £10m on flights. Asked to rate
the importance of the Ryder Cup to the local economy, local businesses awarded
it 4.65 out of a possible 5.
The 2005 Ryder Cup is being held in Ireland and the local
minister for tourism, sport and recreation believes it will double the number
of golf tourists to the country over the next five years. In television terms
only football's world cup attracts more viewers, according to the Welsh
Mr Matthews earned his billion working in Canada but is
Welsh to the core. He was born on the hills that surround the course and is
determined that the world's top players will grace its greens. Celtic Manor has
more than 400 hotel bedrooms and extensive conference facilities. More than
40,000 people attended the recent Welsh Open at the course.
The Welsh bid has an unlikely champion in Spain's Seve
Ballesteros: "[The Ryder Cup] should move around Europe and go to different
countries, and it's never been in Wales, so why not?" Actress Catherine Zeta
Jones and rock band Manic Street Preachers have offered to help.
The Wales bid is being advised by World Sport Group, the
company that brought the cricket world cup to England. Consultant Mair Stratton
says that the potential impact a Ryder Cup in Newport would have on Welsh golf
could be the defining factor.
"The right to host the tournament is not just about putting
on the best show, it's largely to do with how a Ryder Cup would help
development of the sport in the region.We believe we can build a very strong
case around the potential benefits for Welsh golf."
However, the Welsh consortium must negotiate some tricky
bunkers. Rival bids are being lodged by Scotland, Slaley Hall in Newcastle, a
course in Sweden and the PGA's own course at Caldas near Barcelona. The
greatest competition is likely to come from a Scotland bid being co-ordinated
by Glen Kirton, the man who masterminded the Euro 96 football tournament, and
Sweden, which has experienced a surge in interest in the sport.
A decision is expected in January. If the Wales bid wins,
they might even hear the roar of the Welsh dragon from the 19th hole at St
Andrews. more Ryder Cup
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