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July 16, 2008
PETER DAWSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and may I start by thanking you all for coming. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Peter Dawson. I'm Chief Executive of the R & A. But this morning I've taken off my R & A hat, at least in part, to put on my International Golf Federation, IGF, hat.
The subject this morning is golf in the Olympics. But before turning to that, could I just introduce the other participants here on my right and left. First of all, on my right is George O'Grady. These are faces you'll be familiar with. George O'Grady, Executive Director of the PGA European Tour. On my left, Tim Finchem, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, and on my far left, Ty Votaw, Executive Vice President with the PGA TOUR, and we'll be hearing more about him presently.
The International Golf Federation is the body that has been recognised for quite some time now by The International Olympic committee as representing the game of golf to the Olympic movement. A recent poll of International Golf Federation members was conducted about support for golf in the Olympics, and over 90 percent of the respondents either strongly supported or supported golf's inclusion in the games.
Reasons cited were increased exposure for golf, more government support, increased funding both from government and from Olympic participation, and so on. And I have no doubt that Olympic golf is comfortably the biggest grow-the-game opportunity that exists to help us bring golf to so many countries where it's just starting up. So the IGF is a very strong mandate for supporting its efforts to bring golf to the Olympic games.
The problem that the International Golf Federation has had in the past is that it does not represent in any way the professional game, and it's been made very clear to us on several occasions by the IOC that if golf is to be in the Olympics, then it has to be for the top players in the world. Golf will not get into the Olympics if it's to be for amateurs. That's been made clear to us many times.
And what we are here to announce today is that the amateur and professional games have come together to speak with one voice to impress upon the Olympic movement that golf is serious about wanting to join the games.
To achieve this end, we will be using the already-recognised position of the International Golf Federation recognised by the IOC and forming within it an Olympic committee, whose job it will be to oversee the preparation of golf's bid and to promote it.
And this committee will comprise of representatives of the following organizations: Firstly, the R&A, and I will be sitting on the committee; the United States Golf Association, represented by David Fay; the LPGA, represented by Carolyn Bivens; the PGA TOUR, represented by Tim Finchem; PGA European Tour, represented by George O'Grady; Augusta National Golf Club, represented by Jim Armstrong; and the PGA of America, represented by Joe Steranka.
And so, with that combination, we have a body which is representative of the professional game for both men and for women, representative of the major championships, and also representative of golf's rule makers, all talking with one voice. So it's a powerful committee, I think. This will not be plain sailing; we have much work ahead of us. The first time that there will be vacancies in the Olympic programme will be for the 2016 games, and there will be two vacancies projected, but we have six sports up against us vying for those two places, and those two sports are rugby 7s, squash, karate, roller sports, soft ball and baseball. Much to be done, stiff competition, but we do feel that we're putting together the right organisation to get the job done.
Now, I'm going to stop there and I'm going to hand over to George O'Grady, who I know wants to make a few remarks. George?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Thank you, Peter, and I don't think I can speak too highly of the drive and determination of Peter himself and the R&A in leading this initiative and bringing both sides of the game together, the amateur side and the professional side.
I think we on the PGA European Tour have been led by so many amateur federations around the world who have urged us to bring golf into the Olympics for so many years. I could go back to the time of Claude-Roger Cartier, who's president of the French Federation, and Emma Villacieros, who's Chairman of the Spanish Golf Federation.
Since we've announced this initiative at the BMW PGA Championship we've had support from most of the federations we deal with, all the ones we've met, and so many throughout the world, are well aware that the European Tour plays in so many different countries. We deal with so many different PGAs, so many different golf associations, and they all feel this will be the single biggest drive to grow the game in their countries.
I think to bring the PGA TOUR on board with their determination and their professionalism, and all the other major golfing bodies representing the major championships, and the ladies' game, as well, is a tremendous achievement to the people at this table. We are totally committed to this initiative, and we have so much support from everywhere in the world.
If I could now perhaps pass on to the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Tim Finchem.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, George. I'll make a couple of brief comments. Let me, again, reiterate George's comments regarding the role of Peter Dawson and the leadership of bringing golf together on this subject. He and David Fay have spearheaded the effort, and I think the most telling thing they accomplished in the last year was to actually go out and survey countries and federations around the world to give some substance to the impact of what golf in the Olympics would do in unlocking additional resources around the world for growth of the game.
Let me say that from a PGA TOUR perspective we are committed and supportive of this effort and intend to provide our full energies with the rest of the group to bring this to fruition.
In addition, yesterday The International Federation of PGA TOURs met here in Birkdale and passed a resolution of support. So as you may know, The International Federation represents all the major men's tours around the world. And then additionally I would pass on to you that I spoke to Carolyn Bivens yesterday. The LPGA has been in close contact with us on this issue for months, and she wanted me to deliver a personal message from her that while she's on business with the LPGA, she wanted you to know, and the fans to know, that she and the LPGA are absolutely committed.
The reasons that the PGA TOUR came to the conclusion to support golf in the Olympics were twofold. One, that including golf in the Olympic programme we think is a plus for the stature of the game and a recognition of the globality of the game and increasing globality of the game in today's world; and secondly, as Peter has referenced, the incredible impact it could potentially have on growing the game around the world, particularly in areas that are fledgling in their current development of the game.
There are issues to be dealt with beyond securing the votes of the IOC and the support of the IOC to move forward and put golf on the programme. Certainly we are dedicated to that proposition.
But there are other issues and matters to be discussed. The organisation which Peter has alluded to today was one issue. Issues that relate to the competition and details of the competition, so as not to overly impede the scheduling of major professional championships around the world, et cetera. But these issues and others are manageable, and it gives us the opportunity as a sport to come even closer together among the organizations to work on them.
Lastly, let me just introduce to you Ty Votaw and comment that in working with the rest of the committee that Peter outlined, we at the PGA TOUR have agreed to basically loan Ty Votaw to the effort to serve over the next 16 months as the Executive Director of the International Golf Federation Olympic committee, and in this role Ty will provide his strengths and talents to coordinating the efforts of the various organizations to this task.
Ty comes from a background of working on the women's side of the game and the PGA TOUR, but in both capacities he had a wide range of international -- has a wide range of international responsibilities. I think he's particularly well-suited to the task.
The vast majority of his time will be devoted to this task. We look forward to having him back full time toward the end of next year, but in the meantime we think he's the right guy for the job. And with that, I'll turn it over to Ty.
TY VOTAW: Thank you, Tim. I am honoured and deeply appreciative of the confidence that the IGF Olympic golf committee and the leaders in golf have shown in asking me to perform this role. The time is right for the world of golf to come together for the common good of the sport, to reinstate golf as an Olympic sport and to the Olympic programme, and I've been very impressed by the total commitment as evidenced by the members of the Olympic golf committee, as well as all the other golf organizations from around the world who have expressed their support for this initiative.
We have a lot of work ahead between now and the time the IOC makes its decision, October of 2009. The reasons why golf and the Olympics, I think, are a perfect match have been shared by everybody who has previously spoken, but certainly its globality, the number of countries it's played in, the number of countries that have an ability to win a medal in the Olympics, the worldwide commercial appeal of the sport, as well as all of the other values, integrity, that is part of our game, matching up so well with the Olympic ideal. All of those things we feel make golf a logical sport to be added to the Olympic programme for 2016.
Whatever the result, however, we all have to work together to make sure that we've done absolutely everything we can within our power to make that happen, and we will certainly do that. And with that, I'll turn it back over to Peter.
PETER DAWSON: Thank you, Ty. Just before we open it up to questions I'd like to add our appreciation and thanks to the PGA TOUR for releasing Ty from his duties to help us with this Olympic bid. It's an extremely generous gesture, and we very much appreciate it. Could I open this up to questions now, please.
Q. For whoever wants to field it, the other six sports presumably have a little bit of a head start on this, on the paperwork and lobbying effort. Does that put golf at a competitive disadvantage?
TY VOTAW: Tim just mentioned we're not on the back nine yet in terms of the project, and I think that's right. I think certainly there will be an opportunity -- Peter and I will be going to Beijing for the Beijing Olympics to meet with IOC members and to seek their advice as to the best way in which golf can put its foot forward in this endeavor. And we have between now and October of next year to continue to marshal the forces and all the opinion leaders and stake holders in the game to express their support.
So while there may be extra activities or activities that have already gone on with other sports, we think we can be brought up to speed pretty quickly.
Q. October of 2009, you mentioned that date. That's when you hand in your presentation, or what do you do on that date?
TY VOTAW: There's a process all along these next 15 months, but the final decision after those steps and that process are taken place will be a decision by the IOC in their session in Denmark, October of 2009.
PETER DAWSON: It's also true to say, of course, that softball and baseball currently are Olympic sports and being competed for in Beijing, but they will drop out of the Olympic programme for 2012 and are applying to get back in in '16. So to that degree they're more accustomed to Olympic matters than the others.
Q. Peter, have you in your consultation talked to any of the top players and gotten any feedback from them and what they think about the Olympics?
PETER DAWSON: We've talked to many players about this, and in the women's game, to be truthful, the feedback is extremely positive. In the men's game it's growing. It's becoming more and more positive. We've had very welcome, positive statements from players here this week. But I think maybe the gentlemen from the Tours might be slightly closer to that than I am.
GEORGE O'GRADY: From a European Tour point of view we haven't had one player come to us and say anything negative about it at all. I think Padraig Harrington has been strongest in terms of the players. But in terms of the committees and our boards and the players we've talked to, there's been no negative reaction at all.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I would just add to that that I think the support is there. I think there has been and continues to be some attitude that it would be better for the game overall if perhaps amateurs played. That certainly was our position six or seven years ago.
But this is in 2016, so there are issues with respect to the structure of the schedule. It might affect some players' attitudes given the juxtaposition with major championships, et cetera. But I think the overriding thing, if there's any hesitation that will move the needle, is that as players who have not been versed in what this can do to grow the game become versed, I think it wipes out any hesitation to be very supportive, because the growth potential is very significant. And where the game is 10, 15, 20, 25 years from now could be fundamentally different because of the step we're taking, and the short-term issues will pale in comparison.
Based on the conversations I've had with players, I see it developing that we will have very strong support across the board.
Q. This is for any of the gentlemen that want to answer. What about with drug testing? I know golf has just gotten into that and the IOC is very adamant that certain standards have to be met that I don't know that the current programmes meet. What do you think, in terms of coming into compliance with that, to get on the Olympic programme?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, there are differences. We have a global anti-doping policy, which is sort of a threshold policy. And then the European Tour and we and the LPGA differ a little bit in pieces of it. But I think there are two things that are important: One, the distinctions between our policies and a full WADA compliant in most instances are not significant. Two, we have been in constant touch with WADA since the beginning of our effort, and WADA has been very supportive of the construct of our programme so that as we sit down and talk to WADA about becoming totally complaint from the standpoint of the IOC in 2016, there will be probably some issues but we don't see any major hurdles in terms of reaching an understanding about what changes need to be made and when they need to be made to bring us into total compliance to satisfy a vote in 2009 for participation in 2016. It's something that's going to take some work and attention. I do not think it's a major hurdle.
Q. As a follow-up, to be a bit more specific, and perhaps for Commissioner Finchem, have you sounded out Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the two top players in the world, about this?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I'd rather not discuss specific conversations with individual players. I'd rather at appropriate times allow those players to speak for themselves. I'll just reiterate that as you hear from players, my strong view is that you will hear very wide and deep support.
Q. I'm not sure to whom to address this, but three of the past four PGA Championships I believe have run concurrent with summer Olympic games. Is someone willing to change that date every four years to avoid that kind of conflict?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, two things. One, all of us are already in the business of televised golf, so the Olympic schedule affects us already. We played, for example, The Presidents Cup in late October a few years ago when the games were in Sydney because NBC was in Sydney. This is just another elevation of figuring out when the games will be played. You don't know until seven games before the games are scheduled, the same time we know whether we're in or out, they will set a schedule for 2016 and we will work off of that. We have already begun work among the golf organizations to analyze potential dates, what it would mean, and we wouldn't be here unless we had a confidence that we'll all reach an understanding about what happens if well before the time we find out dates. Again, I think this is a matter that requires work and cooperation, but clearly it's a matter that we can handle if we work together, and that's what we're doing.
Q. George, just to follow up on the drug-taking, you've been introduced for a couple of weeks now. Just a reaction to how it's going?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think it's going as well as can be expected. It's well-known we started at the European Open. We have said we're not going to discuss individual findings, more review at the end of the season. But in honour to the fact that this championship starts on Thursday, we tested six players at the European Open, we asked for really fast-tracked testing procedures, which normally takes some time. The results have come back from those six and they're all negative, so there's no possibility of anything going wrong with the Open Championship, which was what was very, very important. All six players tested had no hesitation in going through the procedures. They were happy with the way it was done. It was all conducted very correctly. The players were chosen by random numbers from the draw, three from the morning, three from the afternoon, and it's been well-received.
I don't think on the European Tour any players -- they all understand why we have to do it; one, for this Olympic thing; two, to keep the unprecedented image of professional golf. We strongly believe we're completely clean, and we have to be seen to be clean now and prove it. And I think we've had a widespread education process really on supplements and those sort of things that everybody takes, not just sportsmen, and the same education process has gone on on the PGA TOUR, as well. Very positive.
Q. For the avoidance of doubt, may I just ask if we're talking about Olympic golf for both ladies and men?
PETER DAWSON: Absolutely.
Q. Following on from that, what format do you have in mind?
PETER DAWSON: I think, to be quite honest, that's a work in progress. We have to come up with a formula which attracts the leading players of the world, also allows players from a wide variety of countries to compete, and also recognises the IOC's policy on a limitation on athlete numbers.
There are a number of possible permutations, and that's really one of our big tasks in the coming months is just to decide which format to go with. We did apply some years ago with an Olympic bid with a particular format, but I wouldn't guarantee it would be repeated this time.
Q. Peter, just following up on your last comment, any significant lessons learnt by golf through that unsuccessful bid for Olympic inclusion last time around?
PETER DAWSON: I think very much so. I think golf was not really speaking with one voice at the time, although we did in the way that we are now, and also we were not anywhere near as advanced as we are now with our anti-doping policies and so on. We're in much better position this time.
We did go to visit the IOC in Lausanne recently, and I think it was made pretty clear to us at that meeting that a bid from golf would be warmly welcomed by the IOC, so I think we're in much better shape.
Q. Peter and Ty and Tim, if the decision is made in October of next year, do we assume that a few days before the session or at the time of the session you will make your beauty show presentation, or will you have done it sometime before that? I'm keen to know how long you've got and wish to do it, actually.
TY VOTAW: I think there will be a number of opportunities to make presentations throughout the course of the next 15 months, and hopefully by the time October of next year comes around, the data information and the technical application of the sports to be added to the Olympic programme will have been done, and then it's just a question of tallying the votes on the part of the IOC. We'll have a dialogue every step of the way.
Q. So it won't be one night when you do your gig and everybody --
TY VOTAW: Well, there may be steps along the process where one night somebody does a gig and then another and another, but yes.
PETER DAWSON: But we have to convince the programme commission of our case, who then have to convince the executive board of our case, who will then may or may not make a recommendation to the full session in Copenhagen in October of '09, so there are some steps along the way.
Q. For anybody on the panel, just to follow up, you said that you did have a format in the previous effort. Could you tell us what that format was?
PETER DAWSON: Well, it was for individual play, not team play. But the numbers were -- it was quite a complicated formula as to how you could qualify in terms of your World Ranking and the limit on the numbers per country and then some wild card entries to make sure there was broad geographic representation. So it was quite complex, but it did get the job done. But I do think it met its review this time.
Q. Match play, stroke play?
PETER DAWSON: Stroke play.
Q. They have not awarded the 2016 games. What if it goes somewhere that there are not a lot of golf courses. Will you have a venue that could be outside of that country? Could you play it at Augusta National? Could you play it at Birkdale?
PETER DAWSON: I think that's a hypothetical question. As I understand it, there are now four short-listed cities for 2016, all of which have plenty of golf courses.
If there are no more questions, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
End of FastScripts