Open Championship in 2019 not certain for Portrush

R&A chief admits BBC broadcasting relationship under threat from Fox deal

Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, talks to  media  prior to the start of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. Photograph:  Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, talks to media prior to the start of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images


It is too early to say whether Royal Portrush will host the 2019 Open Championship, according to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.

The course has been invited to rejoin the rota of venues and with the tournament venues decided up to 2018, the assumption by many was that the Northern Ireland location was the favourite for the next vacant slot.

However, Dawson insisted today that there were too many questions unanswered at the moment to finalise a date for the course’s return the Open venue status.

“The fact of the matter is we haven’t determined a date because it would be premature to do so, awaiting what the members of Portrush decide about all the course infrastructure changes,” said Dawson. “We have announced The Open Championship up to and including 2018 at the moment. We’ll have to wait and see how quickly we can get on at Portrush before determining the date.”

The addition of the Northern Irish course takes the number of Open courses to 10, but Dawson said there were no plans to remove any venues from the rota.

Dawson also cast doubt over the future of the relationship between The Open and the BBC, with whom they have been broadcasting partners for 59 years, and admitted the billion dollar-deal recently signed by Fox in the United States could have a major impact in future television coverage.

The BBC contract runs out in 2016 championship at Troon and Sky would be keen to add the event to their large portfolio. The Open is a category B listed event, which means it can be sold to the highest bidder as long as there is provision for highlights on terrestrial television.

Fox’s 12-year deal with the United States Golf Association begins in 2015.

“We have had an extremely long relationship with the BBC and a very happy one. I think it’s now 59 years since The Open Championship was first televised in 1955 on the BBC,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said on Wednesday.

“Our current contract runs through the 2016 Open and what will happen thereafter remains to be seen. Being a rights holder we obviously have to balance that long-term relationship and the high viewership of the BBC against commercial considerations.

“The value of golf rights has accelerated dramatically, particularly in the United States just in the last 12 months. And that’s perhaps a bigger item in the equation than it might otherwise have been, that’s for sure. But it’s massively premature to speculate on what might occur.”

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