Pressure is growing on Scottish Golf chair Eleanor Cannon as the governing body for amateur golf in Scotland reels under the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic with operations stripped back to the bone.
Cannon announced the departure on Tuesday of Andrew McKinlay, the former chief operating officer of the Scottish Football Association, who had been chief executive of SGL for just over two years. He was already the third chief executive at the organisation in the space of four years, and that after Hamish Grey was in the post for almost two decades.
The financial predicament the organisation has found itself as the pandemic hit hard was hinted at by the decision to cancel all events and performance programmes in 2020 “to enable available resources to be reprioritised towards golf club support”.
McKinlay’s departure from his highly-paid post shows that was not all the cost-cutting necessary at SGL, and the organisation announced in a statement on Wednesday that Karin Sharp would now head the day-to-day workings of the governing body from her role as Chief Operations Officer.
Sharp was formerly COO of the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association before the merger with the men’s SGU in 2015, and has continued in a similar role with the amalgamated organisation.
She will have support from chief commercial officer Ian Docherty, who has more than 30 years’ commercial leadership experience working in the golf industry. An SGL statement yesterday indicated that both office bearers had “voluntarily decided to take a 20% pay cut for the foreseeable future.”
In the meantime, Cannon announced a number of key steps to ensure a sustainable future for Scottish Golf, along with targeted initiatives to support their 575 affiliated clubs through these extremely challenging times.
“The Board and Executive Team have had to make very tough decisions in order to focus on ensuring we are in a sustainable position going forward when courses reopen,” she said.
“With many clubs feeling the financial strain, which in turn has had a knock-on effect on our income, we have prioritised expenditure accordingly. Now more than ever we need strong leadership backed up by robust actionable plans.
“I am very pleased to announce that The Board has invited Karin to lead the organisation with immediate effect. She has outstanding operational pedigree gained through various leadership roles within RBS where her career spanned 23 years, predominately in their Corporate & Commercial Banking Division.”
Sharp urged members clubs to complete the financial health check survey issued to them “in response to these unprecedented circumstances”.
“It seeks to gather key information, specifically around the impact of COVID-19 to golf club operations,” she said. “This detail will directly contribute to, and significantly inform, our ongoing dialogue with Scottish Government in relation to the struggles faced by golf in Scotland.
“This information is crucial. To enable us to represent the situation accurately and effectively, I urge all clubs to complete the survey at the earliest opportunity.”
However already some clubs have pushed back against the survey, suggesting that the information requested is of a private nature to their operations.
SGL appears to be one of the many sporting bodies operating close to the limits of their financial capability who have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus shutdown.
Already this month the governing body significantly reduced staffing numbers through utilisation of the Government furlough scheme.
They also cancelled all events for 2020 in what they describe as “sensible, early decisive action”, although English Golf, their counterparts across the border, have opted to only to postpone and still intend to play events if pandemic restrictions allow.