Transparency a higher priority

 

European Tour executive director Ken Schofield regrets the communication breakdown which led to yesterday's showdown with players. Schofield admits talking to players will assume "a higher priority" from now on.

Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal - one half of the so-called "Gang of Four" - the others being Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer - met with Tour chiefs and asked for access to the Tour accounts.

Their proposal - that all Tour financial information should become public knowledge - was defeated by a 2-1 majority in a members ballot but Tour chiefs did agree to undertake an independent audit.

Schofield, the Tour's executive director, said: "It's very clear what route we must take from here. The players get to choose one of the leading accountancy firms for this (the independent audit).

"We will meet and agree the key areas to look into and try to provide an interim report. We must also foot the bill for this - not the golfers.

"We can disclose what proportion of our expenditure goes where but what we can't disclose is which broadcasters gave us what because of the restrictions of confidentiality clauses in the contract.

"Also, unfettered access to the accounts is not possible under UK law."

But Schofield admitted that the Tour had learnt lessons from the grievances among players that led to yesterday's extraordinary general meeting.

"Now we know that personal, one-to-one communications with our members must be a higher priority than previously," he said. "In the past the three pillars of our strategy have been to maximise the number of tournaments on the three tours, to maximise the money in the prize funds and thirdly the investment in venues. We now know that is not enough."

Olazabal likened yesterday's meeting to a scene from High Noon and Faldo questioned the decision to conduct the Tour ballot on the "Gang of Four" proposal by post just before Christmas.

Faldo said: "I don't know about High Noon - it was more like the scene at the end of Zulu, we were a bit outdone! Holding a postal ballot at this time of year with the British post as it is was perhaps a little bit sneaky. They took that on board."

Olazabal said: "They're (Tour officials) willing to be more clear and an audit will be done."

Another thorny issue for the players is the funds available for pensions. Faldo said: "Some players are spending 20 or 25 years on tour and get nothing when they retire. In the US they get millions. People like Jose Maria and myself are all right but it's the young guys who stay in Europe and support the Tour. We want a thank you for them."