Royal Portrush / Image from Getty Images
Organisers of this year’s historic Open Championship in Northern Ireland fear chaos over continued Brexit uncertainty and the Irish border issue.
Golf’s oldest major is returning to the Royal Portrush course this July for a first occasion since 1951 and with the championship long ago a sell-out and it will be just the second occasion The Open is being hosted outside of England and Scotland since the inaugural tournament in 1860.
The announcement that Royal Portrush would host the 2019 Open Championship was made in October, 2015 with the Brexit vote delivered in June 2016.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A), as organisers, has some 2,000 containers to get to the course and is worried about beginning the work of setting-up grandstands, concession stands and the like on Tuesday 2nd April, 2019.
“Live every business, and I think of The Open as a business, we have a lack of certainty about the rules and the laws which we are operating under post March 29th which has caused us significant concern,” said Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A as he hosted a press conference with members of the Association of Golf Writers.
“In hindsight would we be wanting to do Portrush in the year we are potentially leaving the European Union without a deal. The answer is ‘No’.
“We as a management team have spent a lot of time looking at contingences and what we need to do but the future of the Irish border is our number one concern.
“We’ve got over 2,000 containers to get across the Irish Sea, with building of the infrastructure for The Open starting on April 2nd, so we have a lot of material to move to Royal Portrush.
“Though we are determined to put on the best Open we possibly can, the border issue is a concern, and it is one of series of things that every business people are worried about.”
R&A Championships Chairman, Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, charged with ‘setting-up’ the championship, advised some containers will be coming from as far as the Middle East.
“The end of March just happens to be the time we will be arranging shipment of the containers, hence the concern expressed by Martin (Slumbers),” said Cole-Hamilton.
Slumbers further indicated the R&A has been in constant dialogue with MPs in London, Northern Ireland and Dublin in an effort to alleviate fears.
“It’s all around this uncertainty and the thing is that if you know all the rules you can play by, then you play by those rules and you then optimise from those,” said Slumbers.
“The big problem is that we don’t know whether to reschedule all our containers and bring them through Dublin or whether to bring them through Belfast or whether to ship those in the UK out of the UK now.
“That’s our biggest concern and there are other aspects that make Brexit potentially very complex. But it will not threaten the staging of The Open as we will make it happen and it will happen, it’s just more complex.
“So, from those insiders like the R&A it will make it a bit harder but for any business outside, no it shouldn’t impact and they won’t notice. The great thing is we have a full championship sell-out four days with 70% of those from the island of Ireland, so it will be very noisy and pretty exciting.”