Martin Slumbers took office as Chief Executive of the Royal and Ancient last September and has just given his first major interview to BBC Sport. Here are the main points:
In the wake of the tennis betting scandal he said that the Royal and Ancient have no evidence of this happening in golf but they remain vigilant. “We are not complacent. Inappropriate betting undermines the sport. We are looking at the implications and keeping a close eye on it”. Currently all European Tour players and competitors in The Open sign a declaration preventing them from betting on golf.
He says that golf’s return to the Olympic Games this summer is a massive opportunity to grow the sport on a global scale. The exposure of the sport to hundreds of millions of people could lead to a long term surge in participation. As well as ensuring that they work alongside the International Golf Federation to ensure the event is a great success and then capitalise on that success beyond the event.
He says a major challenge which the R & A is tackling is making the game more relvant to younger people. He admits old fashioned stuffiness remains prevalent in the sport. He says that the rivalry between McIlroy and Fowler two weeks ago at the Abu Dhabi Championship was a great image for the game. The sport needs to be more relevant for younger people to come out and play.
With the European Tour this month relaxing its dress rules allowing players to play practice rounds in shorts, Martin Slumbers says this would ne something the R&A might consider in the future, but not for this year’s Open Championship.
He says “golf shouldn’t be frightened of making sure it is modern and relevant, but balancing that with preserving the history and integrity of the game”.