Martin Gilbert has accepted a post as a non-executive director of the European Tour and will maintain his avid interest in the game that has seen Aberdeen Standard Investments become Scotland’s blanket sponsor for the game.
With Gilbert as founder and chief executive, the financial services company has sponsored both men’s and women’s Scottish Opens for a decade, as well as individual sponsorship of a number of professional players and the national amateur teams.
The 65-year-old is retiring from ASI, but even those the Ladies Scottish Open and next month’s Scottish Open will be his last in an official capacity, he’s staying in the game.
“I’ll still go along to the events,” he said. “I’m on the Board of The European Tour now, so that means I’ve still got a big involvement in golf, and I’m involved with (the BMW PGA) Wentworth, which is another tournament that’s gone from strength-to-strength.
“It’s relatively new, but it’s sort of almost an extension of what we were doing at Aberdeen. The Tour is very interesting, it wasn’t a difficult appointment to accept. I think they are also keen to have people on the board who have a business background, as well.”
Gilbert also used to be on the board at Aberdeen FC, but he is confident there won’t be an issue at the Ladies Scottish Open this week with player discipline to coronavirus precautions.
“What happened there will definitely reinforce the message that we’re getting from the government,” he said. “Every day there’s another e-mail that comes through about what you can and can’t do, reinforcing the message.
“I’m hoping the golfers will be more responsible than the footballers, and I suspect they will. I really don’t foresee it being a problem and let’s hope not.”
Gilbert has been forceful in terms of supporting women’s golf, boosting the prizefund for the LSO closer to that of the men’s Open, and generally supporting inclusivity in his time as a sponsor.
“I don’t think the problems have changed, even if golf has become more inclusive,” he said. “We have just got to make golf more accessible, even perception-wise.
“I once heard someone say that one club rule is one rule too many at golf. There are just too many silly rules that put youngsters off playing.
“Also, a lot of people just want to play nine holes. I go to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in Aberdeen, and it’s got a nine-hole par 3 course. It’s fantastic. You get around in an hour. Absolutely brilliant and improves your golf, as well.
“So I think it’s a mixture of that, and just make it more accessible. Make it less time consuming and fewer rules.”
He’s confident the two Scottish Opens will go from strength to strength, even if fans aren’t at either this year.
“Although we miss the spectators, it actually still makes huge business sense for us to continue with just the TV coverage,” he said. “Anyone watching the PGA at the weekend would have seen that you don’t actually need the spectators to get the excitement that you saw there.
“This event is broadcast in over a hundred countries around the world. So anyone that asks, why do you do this, it’s purely that. This event will go all around the world, and be on live TV, as well, which is great.”