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The Open PIF

The Open: Sponsored by PIF?

Could The Open and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia ever become financial partners? R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers isn’t ruling anything out

 

You’ll never see ‘The PIF Open’ but everything else is on the table.

Martin Slumbers says he has not ruled out the prospect of the controversial Saudi backers one day partnering with the world’s oldest major.

Speaking in his annual pre-tournament press conference at Hoylake, the R&A chief executive was asked whether he would accept the Public Investment Fund if they wanted to become a partner – having ruled out the prospect of a “presenting sponsor” for the tournament.

“If I’m very open, we are and do and continue to do, talk to various potential sponsors,” Slumbers said. “I was interpreting the question about sponsors as a presenting sponsor. We’re not changing from The Open. That’s what I meant.

“We have a number of large corporate partners that help us make this thing happen. I think the world has changed in the last year. It’s not just golf. You’re seeing it in football. You’re seeing it in F1. You’re seeing it in cricket. I’m sure tennis won’t be that far behind.

“The world of sport has changed dramatically in the last 12 months, and it is not feasible for the R&A or golf to just ignore what is a societal change on a global basis. We will be considering within all the parameters that we look at all the options that we have.”

Slumbers earlier talked about the financial sustainability of golf and that the “significant increases in prize money in the men’s professional game has resulted in the long-term reassessment of the business model for professional golf”.

The Open PIF

“When I look at the R&A’s responsibility, we have a huge responsibility to the game around the world to grow it, to govern it, and to ensure it’s thriving, and our one asset which is profitable is this week, and the proceeds of this championship have always gone to be reinvested entirely into the game,” he added.

He continued: “We’re balancing up that longer term for balance of the P&L, prize money, and our willingness to invest in the game.

“And I’m not willing – we’re not willing – to compromise on how we see developing the game because that’s actually what we think is the most important long-term balance for it.”

Slumbers said prize money had risen at a much faster rate than the governing body had expected.

“We had expected prize money to rise over a five-year period, and it’s probably risen three years earlier than we expected it to, so there is a significant change.

“I think you’re seeing the change in the entire business model of men’s professional golf, it being able to be worked, and that’s a significant challenge for us when you take into account our desire to keep growing the game and investing all the proceeds we make into the game.”

What do you think? Could you see a The Open-PIF collaboration? Let me know on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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