Thursday 13 December 2018

GUI and ILGU agree on proposal to form unified body

Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI. Photo: Golffile/Fran Caffrey/
Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI. Photo: Golffile/Fran Caffrey/

Brian Keogh

Ireland could become home to one of the most progressive and inclusive organisations in world golf after the GUI and the ILGU agreed to a proposal for the creation of one governing body for the game here.

It's taken two and a half years of discussions and consultations to agree on the proposal, which will be put to a vote of GUI and ILGU club members later this year.

If approved, the ILGU and the GUI will both be wound down and the arduous task of transitioning to a new organisation, designed to make the sport more inclusive, will begin.

The GUI and the ILGU were founded in 1891 and 1893 respectively, making them the oldest governing bodies in world golf.

Ireland now remains the only country in the world with separate organisations for men's and women's amateur golf and the proposed new body offers a golden opportunity to create something new and dynamic.

"If you look at the reasons why we started this process in the first place, you have to look at falling golf club membership, the profile and image of the game and why we are not attracting a younger generation into the game," said Sinead Heraty, CEO of the ILGU.

"As long as we are set up as two separate entities separated by gender, you have to question if that reflects modern society.

"In order for the game to become more attractive and shed that historic image, we as governing bodies have to change. And if you look at all sports and the way that golf has modernised worldwide, it is incumbent on us to start reflecting that."

The new body, which will not be a merger but a brand new organisation, is likely to lead to a shift in golf club culture and lead to considerable economies of scale as well as additional investment.

"If the game is to be recognised as a family sport, it should be inclusive of everybody - men, women, boys and girls - so we can all enjoy it together. That's going to be the vibrancy of it," added Herity.

Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI, echoed her comments and explained that, while it has taken two and a half years to get to this point, getting it done right is more important than getting it done hastily.

"This isn't a merger, but something new that will do the best job for the country after what has been a difficult time for the sport, especially club membership," he said.

"England, Scotland and Wales came under some pressure to do it or else lose funding.

"That was never a threat held over the GUI and the ILGU and so we had time to design, not a merger, but something new.

"That's why it's taken two and a half years to arrive at an agreed proposal. The reality is that we started with a completely blank sheet of paper."

Information packs on the proposed new organisation will be issued to affiliated clubs in the coming months and the ILGU and the GUI will hold separate club briefings with all of their respective clubs in advance of the vote date.

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