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In midst of recent rut, European Tour looking for new solutions


By John Huggan

VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Just in case you haven’t noticed, things haven’t been going too well on the European Tour recently. While the big names are out in force for the BMW PGA Championship this week, the same has not been true for the vast majority of a 2013-14 season. By way of example, seven of the eight South African tournaments that have so-far dominated the schedule have offered purses less than one third of the €4,750,000 that has helped draw the stars to Wentworth.

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European Tour commissioner George O'Grady is taking measures to develop a long-term business strategy for the tour. Photo by Getty Images

Not surprisingly, the tour rank-and-file has been a little unhappy with a state of affairs that has, for example, seen the man who won last year’s qualifying school -- Spaniard Carlos Del Moral -- tee-up only half a dozen times. And he is far from alone in seeing his playing opportunities limited.

A succession of off-course incidents has also blighted the tour over the last 12 months. There was Sergio Garcia’s notorious “fried chicken” remark regarding Tiger Woods exactly a year ago. The enforced absence of Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Garcia -- all deemed ineligible -- from the season ending Dubai World Championship didn’t help either. Falling out with the Ballesteros family over the Royal Trophy and the EurAsia Cup -- both team matches between Europe and Asia -- was at least mildly embarrassing. And continuing to play at the recent Madeira Islands Open following the death of caddie Iain McGregor was widely viewed with revulsion.

Throw all of the above together, mix well, and it is clear that the overall business approach of the European Tour is in need of a rigorous overhaul or at least close examination. Which coincidentally seems to be the opinion of chief executive George O’Grady. In a recent letter to the membership, the 64-year old Northern Irishman laid out a “strategic planning program” that will “create a vision and strategy for the European Tour’s future development.”

“The Program will build on the work achieved by the current board and will fully engage all internal and external audiences to ensure the future direction of the Tour supports every one of its valued stakeholders,” continued O’Grady. “It is being led by a steering committee comprising myself, Chief Operating Officer Keith Waters and Financial Director Jonathan Orr, along with two designated board directors and our recently appointed Chairman, David Williams. 

“The team is working with OC&C, a specialist international consultancy that helps organizations achieve consistent growth through insightful strategic planning. For many of us, working with the team at OC&C will give us a chance to step back from the day-to-day management of the business and objectively review how far we have come over the last ten years, assess the future opportunities and then develop a strategic and tactical plan to help us maximize our future success.”