The R&A have “growing confidence a significant number of fans” can be admitted to the 149th Open at Royal St George’s in July.
Chief executive Martin Slumbers in his latest update on the championship planning says the R&A are working on a “reduced capacity model” for the return of the championship to Sandwich.
The Kent venue was to have hosted golf’s oldest major championship last year. It was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic – the first time the Open had not been played since World War II.
‘Increasing optimism and continuing caution’
Slumbers describes the R&A’s work on the Open as having “increasing optimism and continuing caution” for the championship, to be staged on the week of July 11 to 18.
“The situation with the Covid-19 pandemic continues to improve in the UK,” he states.
“The rapid roll-out of the vaccine programme gives us growing confidence that we will be able to welcome a significant number of fans to the Championship as part of a reduced capacity model.
“The pandemic has certainly not gone away and is still extracting a terrible human cost in parts of the world. Our thoughts and best wishes continue to be with all those affected.”
Safety is the absolute priority
Slumbers adds that the R&A are working had with government, public health authorities and their health and safety advisers to comply with guidelines as they change from month to month.
“Our absolute priority is to ensure we can stage The Open safely for all involved,” he continues. “I would like to be able to give greater clarity on our plans at this stage but we recognise that a number of important decisions have still to be made.
“These decisions by government on issues such as social distancing, testing and Covid certification. These will have a significant bearing on the potential level of attendance at the Championship.
“In the meantime, we are emailing our ticketholders and hospitality purchasers with more information about their tickets. We are contacting international ticketholders to assist them with refund options if they are unable to travel due to international travel restrictions.
Understanding challenges for fans waiting for news
“I fully recognise the challenges that awaiting further guidance causes for our fans, players, volunteers and officials. We appreciate that it is making it difficult for people to confirm their plans just yet.
“I apologise for any inconvenience this is causing and thank you for your patience and understanding. We will work through the process and respond to the government guidance as it emerges.
“Our end goal remains to stage a fantastic Open at Royal St George’s. We want to give our fans and players something to be genuinely thrilled about this summer.
“It has been too long since we have seen the world’s best men’s golfers competing on one of our greatest links courses. I’m sure you are looking forward as eagerly as I am to what will be a truly memorable sporting occasion.”
Further updates on planning will be released in the coming weeks, he concludes.