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European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley gives sobering message to members of slashed prizefunds due to coronavirus shutdown

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

The European Tour faces slashed prizefunds, reduced services for players and a truncated schedule that could mean multiple tournaments in the same week even if it manages to resume play in 2020.

Chief Executive Keith Pelley has detailed in an email to members how the tour will be profoundly affected by the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, and warns players that the effects will be felt in the 2021 schedule as well.

The details of Pelley’s email, revealed by James Corrigan in The Telegraph, paint a sobering picture of what will be left of the Tour once play restarts.

It’s thought the earliest probable – although still optimistic – restart date would be the British Masters at Close House near Newcastle, which would leave the Aberdeen Standard Assets Management Scottish Open, due to be played in early July, under significant threat.

The R&A have already cancelled The Open Championship for 2020 which was set for the week before the Scottish at The Renaissance Club near North Berwick.

Pelley notes that the Tour has enjoyed a significant period of growth in recent years in terms of prizefund, playing opportunities, broadcast attention and the overall standard of event.

However, he adds, “the impact of the coronavirus has stopped this rapid momentum in its tracks”.

“You should therefore be prepared that when we do resume playing, the schedule and the infrastructure of tournaments could look radically different from what you have been used to,” he continues.

“Many of the things you have become accustomed to, such as top-class players’ lounges or courtesy car services will most likely assume a different appearance, if indeed they are present at all.”

“Prize funds will also most likely be different. The reality is, the pandemic is going to have a profound impact on the tour financially, as well as many of our partners, both in sponsorship and broadcast areas.”

The effect of the pandemic has already been felt within European Tour headquarters at Wentworth, with some staff furloughed and the chief executive and other high earners having accepted salary reductions.

On the playing side, the tour has been forced to cancel or postpone 14 events so far, a number that is expected to rise with the virus still forcing shutdowns in Europe and three major championships now being rescheduled for later in the year – the Masters now occupies the same week in November as the European’s Tour’s grand finale, the Dubai World Championship, although that event will now also be moved.

In the meantime, the tour will attempt to play as many events as possible to meet their sponsorship and broadcast commitments, adds Pelly.

Some of the postponed events could appear on a truncated schedule, with it likely that travel restrictions could mean UK tournaments – The Scottish, the BMW PGA at Wentworth and the Dunhill Links Championship probably – taking place back-to-back.

He continues: “We are looking at options such as (a) multiple tournaments in the same location; (b) two tournaments in the same week, or three in a fortnight; or (c) three or four tournaments back-to-back in the UK with a 14-day ‘quarantine’ period ahead of that.

“(This would) allow players not from the UK to come over and self-isolate in advance, if that health requirement is still in place then.”

The UK events are critical to the Tour as having the most interest from broadcast partner Sky Sports, he adds. Playing behind closed doors is also being considered.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to come through this, but be prepared that the 2021 schedule may look profoundly different to the 2019 or the 2018 schedule,” Pelley concludes.

“This is difficult for all of us to face after the tireless work we have all undertaken to grow our Tour over the last five years, but this is the new reality.”

The Senior Open, scheduled for Sunningdale in July, has also been postponed by joint promoters the R&A and the Staysure Tour.

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