Open Championship chief Martin Slumbers is confident the Covid-19 related controlling measures in place this week at Royal St. George’s will hopefully see no-one forced to withdraw from The Open.
Golf’s oldest major is returning from a two-year absence due to the cancellation of last year’s hosting of the championship. However, it is not all back to normal as many of those travelling from the States have been saying to the media with players needing to spend this week in a no more than four-person bubble.
While golf fans the world over are delighted to see The Open being hosted, and a daily spectator attendance of 32,000, Slumbers was facing questions around the restrictions, and what were to happen should anyone break the bubble and/or test positive to Covid-19.
“We’ve set out protocols for the championship,” he said. “We’ve talked to all the players. We’ve made it very clear it is to protect them and their fellow competitors. It’s to give them, all the players, the very best chance of all of them being here on Sunday afternoon and able to play.
“We have the background of the UK law to deal with, so it’s not us creating the rules, it’s the UK law, and I expect the players to react and deal with that in a professional, responsible way. And I have to confess, every single one I’ve talked to has absolutely understood that and is behaving like that, so thank you to them.”
But that said, Slumbers was asked if he was confident, given the strict measures that are in place, that no-one will test positive for the virus
“We have thought long and hard of all the procedures that we need to minimise the risk on that,” he said. “The most pressing part of it is for the players. The worst thing you can get is a player being contact traced, because as you know over here, if you’re contact traced, you’re out for 10 days and quarantined and you can’t test out of it, so you’re out of the championship.
“When you go to the heart of all the protocols for the players, it’s solely around contact tracing. For the spectators, it’s different. They’re here as part of a research programme for the government, and the government will be monitoring all that.
“They’re actually trying to very responsibly understand with these big events how COVID does transmit in the outside, 500, 600 acres of land and wind blowing, and they’re monitoring that.
“There’s a different set of rationales for the players and for the spectators. But I think it’s probably inevitable that we will have some problems, and we understand that, so does the government, so does Public Health, and we’ll work through that. We must forget we are staging a major event still in the middle of a global pandemic.”
There was then a reminder to all 156 competitors.
“I think players know the risks,” Slumbers said. “They know what will impact. They’re all responsible. They don’t want to put their fellow players at risk. I’d like to treat them like professionals in this regard.”
And the penalty?
“I think he would be at risk of being disqualified.”
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