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  • Alistair Tait

No strategic alliance joy for the 68

Former European Tour employees must have choked on their aperitifs when chief executive Keith Pelley said the Tour was not in financial difficulty. They must be wondering: then why did I lose my job?

Remember what Pelley said when he announced the European Tour’s strategic alliance with the PGA Tour? He said it wasn’t being done because the Tour had money problems. He said:

“We are categorically not in financial difficulties. That is simply wrong. We are in robust financial health with a very strong balance sheet, strongest ever.”

Really? Then why were nearly 70 employees made redundant this year because of Covid-19’s impact? The layoffs came in two tranches. I’m told the actual number is 68, but perhaps someone from the European Tour human resources department could correct me if I’ve got the figure wrong. Or is that also covered by an NDA?

Since the tour is in “robust financial health” any chance of those 68 getting their jobs back? Or maybe the Tour IS in “robust financial health” because it shed those jobs.

This pandemic has hurt every business. Many people in all industries have lost their jobs as a result. Golf is no different. However, many companies have stuck by their employees, retaining them for the good days that surely lie ahead. That’s certainly true for those companies that are in “robust financial health.”

And what about the tour’s current employees at its headquarters at the Wentworth Club (pictured)? What does this strategic alliance mean for those good men and women currently working their youknowhats off to keep the European Tour circus running right now? They must be worried about the future.

You don’t need a degree in advanced economics to know that whenever two bodies get together it usually results in job cuts. Simple economies of scale dictate that. Which European Tour departments will suffer because of this alliance?

There’s no denying this strategic alliance is good news for global golf. It makes sense for the two tours to work together for common benefit. However, how many of those who worked to get the European Tour to this position will reap the benefits? As I wrote when this strategic alliance was announced, it was short on detail, but big on vision. Current European Tour employees will want a lot of detail on the alliance. Or should many start sharpening up their CVs?

I know a many of those European Tour individuals who lost their jobs this year. I worked alongside many of them for a long time, ate meals with them, stayed in the same hotels as them, travelled on shuttle buses with them, bantered with them. As Seve Ballesteros often said, the European Tour was like one big family. Not always a happy one true, but there were plenty more good days than bad ones. (Hmmm, wonder how Seve would feel about the European Tour getting into bed with the PGA Tour? Is that a rumbling I hear in that great clubhouse in the sky?) There always been a sense we were all in it together. Media, officials, players, caddies, managers, equipment reps, travel organisers, etc. All part of the European Tour cause.

The majority of those 68 who lost their jobs were good people. Experts in their field. People who know golf. They’re individuals who put their heart and soul into building what John Jacobs dreamt back in the early 1970s, who helped former CEOs Ken Schofield and George O’Grady do excellent jobs growing the tour into the multi-million circuit it is today. They must have thought their futures were secure when Pelley arrived as a breath of fresh air promising a brighter future.

The 68 obviously won’t now be part of that future.

I’ve been through two redundancies. It’s not fun. In fact, it’s depressing. No going away party. No thanks for all your hard work. You’re just curtly shown the door. Often it seems as if the person giving you the axe is the one who’s going through anxiety. You almost feeling like apologising when the person swinging the axe says, “this has been an extremely difficult decision.” Really? Think about how difficult it’s going to be for me tomorrow, mate?

You go from feeling part of a team, feeling like an important cog in a huge wheel to feeling angry, depressed, worthless, drinking more than you should and wondering why you worked those 12 hour days, what the point of it all was, what the point of you is. Trust me, many of the 68 are still feeling that.

This strategic alliance announcement is great for the game of golf, but spare a thought for the 68 who helped take the European Tour to this point, and who will not share in what looks like a glorious future. Also spare a thought for those current employees who’ll no doubt become casualties because of this alliance.

Still, Europe’s top stars are making more money than ever before. So everything’s okay.

This blog is for the 68. Thanks for being part of my “family” for so many years. Hope I see you down the road somewhere.

#JustSaying: “The pioneering pilgrimage through Europe, the great adventure in which players, press and officials shared was … a giant learning curve involving different cultures, languages, cuisines and currencies.” Mark Wilson, former Daily Express golf writer, and European Tour director of communications

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