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Bidding process from Scottish point of view
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Blair stands ground over Ryder Cup row
Bruce McHenry, The Scotsman, 1 November 2000
Tony Blair refused to withdraw from the Ryder Cup fray
yesterday after being criticised for supporting Englands bid to host the
The Prime Minister wrote a letter of support for Slaley
Hall in Northumberland, which is competing against bids from Scotland, Wales
and Sweden, and was criticised by SNP and Conservative Party politicians for
favouring the English bid.
Yesterday, Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman Ian Jenkins
MSP added his voice to those who believe Blair should remain neutral.
"I believe in a strong and vibrant United Kingdom, that
needs a Prime Minister who represents all the constituent parts of that United
Kingdom without favour," said Jenkins.
"Mr Blair should have left it to his Culture Secretary
Chris Smith and the English Sports Minister Kate Hoey to head up this bid."
Mr Blair claims his letter was written as a constituency MP
rather than as Prime Minister, but Slaley Hall is in a neighbouring
constituency rather than his own Sedgefield seat. "As a local north-east MP I
am well aware of the importance of sport to the people in the area," wrote
Blair. "Thousands participate in a wide variety on a regular basis and the
organisation committee can be assured of tremendous local support should the
competition come to the region.
"I eagerly look forward to joining the people at this great
Yesterday, Downing Street sought to play down the furore
caused by Mr Blairs intervention. "He was writing a letter as a
constituency MP, wishing them well. This does not preclude or cut across or
affect in any shape or form the work being done by the Scottish Executive. The
Prime Minister does not have a role in any decisions," said a spokesman for Mr
The Prime Minister has made no secret in the past that he
supports England at football rather than Scotland, the country of his birth,
but this is the first time his backing for a country has had any potential to
influence the outcome.
Last week, the Scottish Executive launched Scotlands
bid to bring the Ryder Cup to the home of golf in an investment package worth
£30 million which included a commitment to introduce every child to the
game of golf by the age of nine. It was presented by sports ministers Sam
Galbraith and Rhona Brankin, and yesterday the document detailing
Scotlands bid was delivered to the PGA at The Belfry by Allan Wilson,
Scotlands new deputy sports minister, along with deputy tourism minister
Alasdair Morrison and bid organiser Gavin Hastings.
On Monday, Slaley Halls bid was valued at £40
million, and in common with the Scottish bid, it is underwritten with £24
million of public money. Another £16 million will be found to back Slaley
Hall from a mixture of both the public and private sectors.
Yesterday it was the turn of the Welsh bid to make its
pitch. The campaign has been backed by billionaire Terry Matthews who wants to
bring the prestigious event to his £120 million Celtic Manor complex in
Newport, which was built to fulfil Matthews dream of holding the Ryder Cup in
However, Matthews did not reveal yesterday how much of his
own fortune he has put into the bid, but money is no object for a businessman
who sold his last company, Newbridge Networks, to the French group Alcatel for
£4.4 billion this year. It is expected that he will top the Scots and
Welsh bids, but the Ryder Cup committee has stressed the decision will not be
based on pure finance alone.
It is understood that Matthews will also increase the prize
money for the Welsh Open to £2 million to please the PGA, and there is
also the possibility of the Welsh financial package being matched pound for
pound by the European Union through the Objective One funding programme.
Rhodri Morgan, Wales First Minister, described the
Celtic Manor bid as "a visionary plan that will transform the golfing
landscape" across the country.
The National Assembly for Wales has set up a bid committee
under the chairmanship of former England cricket captain Tony Lewis to take the
Ryder Cup to the Newport venue. "This is a great opportunity for the
Professional Golfers Association to raise the level of the game in an
entire country over a 10-year period," said Lewis.
"We know that more people play golf than rugby in Wales,
but tournaments, facilities and the coaching infrastructure have lagged behind.
With the Ryder Cup we can put the funding in place to rectify this."
Morgan added: "Wales will use the opportunity of hosting
the Ryder Cup to create a whole range of new facilities for coaching, practice
"We will deliver exciting new tournaments and put Wales on
the world map for golf tourism. The net gain to golf as a sport and Wales as a
nation will be massive. Proposals for developing golf include the widespread
introductions of coaching in schools, development initiatives at all levels of
the game and a strategy to ensure sexual equality."
All bids will be considered by the PGA and the European
Tour in the next two months before an announcement is made in January about
which country will stage the event.
If Scotland is the choice, the fight will then begin
between Gleneagles, Loch Lomond, Carnoustie, St Andrews and Turnberry to decide
which course should play hosts.
Sweden have also made a bid, but is thought much more
likely that the competition will return to the continent in 2013.
To link in with the centenary of the PGA, The Belfry at
Sutton Coldfield - their headquarters - will host the match next September for
the fourth time, while the K Club near Dublin will be the first Irish course to
stage the match in 2005.
Blair caught up in Ryder Cup bid row
Steve Bargeton, Political Editor, The Courier, 1 November
Scotlan'd bid to host the 2009 Ryder Cup was officially
launched yesterday amid a major political row over Tony Blairs backing
The Prime Minister has incensed MSPs by sending a letter of
support for Slayley Hall Golf Club in Northumberland which is competing with St
Andrews, Carnoustie and Gleneagles for the prestigious event.
Yesterday Downing Street said that Mr Blair was acting in
his capacity as a north east of England MP.
"He wrote the letter in his capacity as a constituency MP,
not as Prime Minister, and it does not cut across the Scottish Executives
bid," she said.
But the SNP said Mr Blair was aligning himself with the bid
against the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament.
"Tony Blair is supposed to be Prime Minister of all the
nations and regions of the UK, but he has shown himself up to be Englands
PM," said shadow sports minister Irene McGugan.
"It is entirely wrong of him to express his support for the
English Ryder Cup bid, over the Scottish campaign.
"Following on from the highly publicised support of the
Scottish Government for the bid to bring the Ryder Cup to Scotland - the home
of golf - this intervention by Tony Blair pulls the rug from under the feet of
Ms McGugan said the First Minister should tell Mr Blair to
publicly withdraw his backing for the English bid.
Away from the political row, newly appointed Scottish
sports minister Allan Wilson, deputy tourism minister Alastair Morrison and
former Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings headed to the Belfry to submit
Scotlands bid for the biennial contest between Europe and Americas
top golfers to the Professional Golfers Association (PGA).
Five Scottish courses have stated their interest in hosting
the three-day contest and more may put themselves forward.
The three on the Open Championship rota - Carnoustie,
Turnberry and St Andrews - are in contention, along with Loch Lomond and
A £24 million bid was launched last week at the same
time as a commitment by the Scottish Executive to introduce every child to golf
before they reach the age of nine.
Ministers estimate the Ryder Cup could net the Scottish
economy at least £67 million, as well as boosting golf tourism, a target
sector for visitors.
The projections are based on a study commissioned by the
Executive which shows the 1997 Ryder Cup in Valderrama, in Spain, created
£56.2 million, while last years event in Boston generated
£103 million, £30 million more than projected.
A decision on the host country is expected in January and
thereafter individual courses will compete to secure the worlds third
biggest sporting event.
A bid from Wales is backed by billionaire Terry Matthews
who wants to bring the prestigious event to his £120 million Celtic Manor
complex in Newport.
Sweden is also bidding to host the event.
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