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July 9, 2009

Kyi Kla Han

George O'Grady


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you for your attendance in what is a very special day. The Asian Tour and The European Tour have formed a formidable partnership since the first co-sanctioned tournament a decade ago, and today's announcement will further strengthen the alliance.
To that end, I am delighted to welcome to the top table: Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman Asian Tour, alongside Eric Lynge, Senior Director Commercial and Television Asian Tour; there of course joined by George O'Grady Chief Executive of The European Tour and Keith Waters Director of International Policy. Gentlemen, you are all most welcome this morning, and to start proceedings I would like to ask George O'Grady to say a few words.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Thank you, Scott, and welcome everybody, for finding the time to join us during The Barclays Scottish Open, one of our premiere events, and an auspicious day for this announcement. I think where we have formed our partnership with our friends on the Asian Tour, auspicious because Prayad Marksaeng is leading the tournament at 5-under par just to show the growing strength of Asian golf.
There's been a lot of discussion on affairs in Asia; OneAsia Tour, Asian Tour. And we have been working with the Asian Tour for a long time now. This basically solidifies that partnership. Certainly in the field of television, sponsorship, all of the different countries we have relationships with, it means we are joined at the hip on commercial ventures, and I hope sends a clear signal to all of the countries we visit that the two professional golfers bodies, the Asian Tour representing the Asian players, and ourselves representing our Members, are working together for what we feel will be the benefit of golf. Thank you.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, George.
I would like to ask Kyi Hla Han to say a few words.
KYI HLA HAN: Thank you for being here. We are happy to announce this new alliance with The European Tour, and I think which will have a close, stronger relationship between the two tours. I think for the last ten years, we have had co-sanctioned events in Asia, and now with our marketing the commercial part and the media working closely together, I think it will be a formidable relationship, which will strengthen the region we feel, and also for our players. I think it will give a lot of our Asian Tour players an opportunity IN which will develop their talents, and it will excel them on to the world stage. I think it creates a lot of opportunities for sponsors and for players alike, yeah. Thank you very much.

Q. (Unintelligible).
KYI HLA HAN: Well, I think we are working out all of the arrangements over the last few years, and we have come to an arrangement where it's a win/win situation for both Tours. I think both commercially now, and also I think for the players, I think a lot of our players have elevated their status and all that playing a lot of our co-sanctioned events over there. So I think it's the right time for us to really strengthen this relationship.

Q. Does this mean you'll have no dealings at all with OneAsia; they are making big strides to establish themselves?
GEORGE O'GRADY: No. It means basically we are together with the Asian Tour, and we are certainly prepared to work with OneAsia if we need to in the countries we go to.
I think OneAsia, is specifically the Chinese Golf Association, we have strong relationships with all the time, is well aware the HSBC has now become a World Golf Championship and that is sanctioned by all the world's tours, the PGA TOUR and the Japanese Tour onside.
So it sends a clear message to the marketplace that the two player bodies are together, and the player bodies themselves can work with any other sanctioning body if they want to. But the Asian Tour players want this to happen, and The European Tour players. We have a lot of golfers who are members of both tours, and really we represent the players, rather than direct commercial interests, and that's the message we are trying to send.

Q. Where does the Asian Tour sit now as far as where OneAsia is concerned, particularly with regard to events like the Volvo China Open?
KYI HLA HAN: We feel especially with our Asian Tour players, we have had several meetings this year and they are very much in support of what we are, which is a player organisation.
I think OneAsia, to us and the players, is not a very clear direction of what it is, whether it's a series or a tour; it has no membership right now.
I think our players pretty much support their organisation where we are now and you know, seeing the benefits they get with the co-sanction arrangements we have with The European Tour, I think they see more that their career pathways and for them to excel more on the world stage; that this would be the right platform.
As of now, our players are very much in support of the Asian Tour, and they feel it's their organisation.

Q. In your position as an executive, are you prepared to talk to OneAsia, or does your position remain that you want nothing to do with them?
KYI HLA HAN: They have to make a clear-cut way of what they really are. We actually don't really know if it is a player organisation or there's no membership or they are a tour or a series.
You know, as of now, I think our profile in Asia with the sponsors and a lot of the promoters, it's very clear where we are. We are not a tour that is actually going down, so I think this alliance now further strengthens that. And you know, I think especially in this economic climate right now, I think the sponsors really want a clear-cut understanding of what they are going to get, and I think that this for us is the way forward.

Q. Sorry for being somewhat out of the loop and not a fast reader, does this mean that the Singapore Open will be part of The European Tour schedule?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think we are hoping there's going to be an announcement on the Singapore Open very shortly, without putting too fine a point on it, our base want it to happen, Asian Tour want it to happen, we are prepared to let it happen. There are just some details being worked out.

Q. Will there be any more spots in the field for Asian Tour members and vice versa?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think we are looking at it case-by-case. I think we are co-sanctioning in Switzerland with the Asian Tour and the Asian Tour players are coming into that, and we make them very welcome in the Dunhill Links Championship, the leading players, and I think we are going to explore all different kind of opportunities together.
There's a commercial basis to this announcement, as well, consistent television policies across Asia. So we are doing it together, rather than one party negotiating on one side and one on the other side. Next week is going to be a very major talking point in golf. All of the bodies that make up the OneAsia Tour have been invited to Turnberry, so the CGA is coming, the PGTI of India are going to be there. There's going to be big Federation meetings, enormous numbers of people are coming on Tuesday, really as a forum to bring the world together, and I think we would like to feel The European Tour has played a strong part in bringing them all together, and coping with the misunderstandings that might have come.
But I think if a players' organisation, which the Asian Tour is and The European Tour, a players' organisation, we should be joined at the hip and deal with the commercial interests together, and I think that's what we are trying to do.
But China is such an important part of golf development, I think it's really making sure people approach the development of golf on the same page.

Q. Obviously the PGA TOUR has got problems with a lot of its sponsors, cars, banks, etc. Did you two come together partly that there is a concern America might go in Asia and you wanted to shut down the golf market to an extent?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I don't think so at all. Both Tours have welcomed the expansion of the HSBC Champions event into a World Golf Championship, and that brings the PGA TOUR if you like on board, and the PGA TOUR are on board with the World Cup at Mission Hills and working together to find a solution. I think this is just common sense to show that we have come together.
The whole issue between the Asian Tour and the OneAsia Tour, and we have been asked our position for quite some time, and we haven't been committed to it, because we have had trading agreements with the Asian Tour. We are now coming down just clearly saying, this is how it goes.
We largely have contracts on The European Tour. When we announced The Race to Dubai Schedule last year, we would like to keep that for at least the year that we have announced it. We don't like changing sanctioning arrangements in the middle of the year. This gives a clear indication to all of the tournaments that are with us, and the Asian Tour can go somewhere else.

Q. Are you scared about the PGA TOUR coming into Asia, and the idea of well documented differences to send a message?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Not at all scared of the PGA TOUR. I think we work with them. I was 45 minutes opponent the phone to Commissioner Finchem yesterday and 45 minutes on Tuesday morning. So I think he's working on issues that he sees around the world, and largely we are working together. So certainly not scared at all.

Q. (Unintelligible).
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, we welcomed them to the World Golf Championships and we welcomed them to the World Cup at Mission Hills, so there will be times where we will join forces with the PGA TOUR as opportunities arise, and there will be times where we go it alone.
We have trailblazed, together with the Asian Tour in different markets, and I think if we have expanded where European Tour players can play, we have opened the doors for successful players to come back and join The European Tour, as is witnesses by Thailand's leading player leading this tournament as we speak.

Q. The co-sanctioning of the Singapore Open is probably the worst-kept secret in world sport at the moment. If the date goes ahead, there are obvious implications as far as the Volvo World Match Play is concerned with a clash of dates; what's the position with regard to The European Tour players and the Asian Tour players and which event would have precedence?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, from our point of view, players would have a choice and both organisers would be well aware that they are going in that week. It's being worked out on the difficulties of the date.
As I say, we haven't announced that this tournament co-sanctioned, The Barclays Singapore Open is co-sanctioned, and you could say, it's still, unfortunately a work-in-progress, and until things are done, they are not done. It's certainly everyone's intention to get it done. So, you can then choose if you play the Volvo World Match Play or whether you play in Singapore.
I think if you're going to have a 16-man tournament at that stage of the season, you've got to have something; if we can, you've got to have something against it.
KYI HLA HAN: We feel the same way. I think that the players have the right to choose where they want to play and we clearly endorse that.

Q. Will this raise its profile at all --
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think it's another one of the works-in-progress. We would like to see that event -- The European Tour versus the Asian Tour. I think it's got wonderful potential.

Q. Just on The World Match Play, it's obviously far from ideal. You're trying to reestablish this tournament at The World Match Play; didn't happen last year. It's being perceived as having a weakened field because you've got another event going on somewhere else.
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think the original date we had the World Match Play in was the date that ended up clashing with The Tour Championship in the United States. That date would have worked. It was against a tournament we had going in France at that time, and we were not in the co-sanctioning season. The organisers of the World Match Play would not accept that date in the end, and we finally found a week that would suit.
But we are looking after a full field of European Tour Members. Now, great, they can get into The World Match Play, but there's only 16 people in the field; and there is a world match play that goes on sponsored by Accenture in the United States which is the Top-64 in the world.
We are giving that sponsor and that organiser every chance to make the tournament work, and we are also trying to maximise opportunities for everybody else.

Q. Moving away from this issue, do you have any kind of reaction to what Ian Poulter had to say at the end of his round?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, he's a very passionate competitor who gives his all. I spoke to him yesterday, conveyed, in fact, an apology from the President of the French Golf Federation for the behavior of the photographer, because they worked very hard to really improve that tournament. And Ian was polite enough to say, it was an excellent tournament, really well staged, plenty of great crowds. He has said to the French organisers and to me, I think he used the world apologised. But he certainly said he was hot-headed, it was too soon after his round, and he would not have reacted that way on Monday, and he has conveyed besides what he said, the French Open is definitely on his schedule.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance.

End of FastScripts

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