Monday 10 December 2018

Portrush may face cap on numbers at British Open

The R&A is considering placing a cap on spectator numbers at next year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Photo: Sportsfile
The R&A is considering placing a cap on spectator numbers at next year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Photo: Sportsfile

Paul Kelly

In an unprecedented move the R&A is considering placing a cap on spectator numbers at next year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

The Open's return to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 70 years has officials weighing up the possibility of dealing with record-breaking attendances.

Individual daily attendance figures at the Open Championship regularly top 40,000.

In 2014, when Rory McIlroy collected the Claret Jug at Hoylake, some 42,000 people came through the gates. Just imagine the clamour for tickets if the home favourite finds himself in contention on the final day next year.

Given that the Irish Open in 2012 at the same venue was a sell-out - with more than 130,000 people filing through the gates - R&A officials are now pondering a move which would be a first in more than 140 years of the Major championship.

Serious

Speaking earlier this week, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the issue was being given "serious consideration".

"It's not just the compactness (of the site), but what fans really want which is to get as close to the players as they possibly can, and that plays into how many people we can actually physically get into the complex, into the course and give them that experience. And so there's a lot of work being done on that we haven't concluded yet.

"I think there will be also a lot of Americans there, especially for the first time. I think it could be a big crowd. And if Rory keeps playing well, it'll be an even bigger crowd."

Last year's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, won by American Jordan Spieth, attracted record crowds for an Open on English soil with 235,000 people attending during tournament week, which includes the practice days.

It was the third highest ever, falling shy of the St Andrews Opens of 2000 (239,000) and 2015 (237,000).

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