Belfast Telegraph

Portrush insists Brexit won't get in way of successful Open

Royal Portrush will host The Open in July
Royal Portrush will host The Open in July
John Gregg in his sweet shop
Aileen Campbell in the Ocean Cafe
Stephen Vij
Pauline Nicholl

By Donna Deeney

Brexit won't stop golf's Open Championship at Royal Portrush being a success, the north Antrim club and town traders have insisted.

They were speaking out after Martin Slumbers, chief executive of UK golf's ruling body the R&A, said he admitted he would not have wanted to host this year's Open in Portrush while facing the possibility of a hard Brexit.

Mr Slumbers also said he will be "quite pleased when it's over" after revealing it had been a logistical nightmare.

Yesterday, John Bamber, chairman of The Open Championship Committee for Royal Portrush, said he recognised and shared the concerns expressed by Mr Slumbers but said everyone at the club was confident the championship will be first-class.

Mr Bamber said: "The whole uncertainly over Brexit is a big challenge for everybody in all industries but we are very satisfied at Royal Portrush that everything is in order and we are looking forward to hosting The Open Championship in July.

"I am very comfortable with the commentary that has come out. I think it was taken slightly out of context.

"I don't think anyone is overly comfortable about where we find ourselves in relation to Brexit but at the same time I know we at Royal Portrush are extremely comfortable with what we are now looking forward to.

"I don't think Brexit will have any impact on The Open Championship at Portrush at all. Because of the attention to detail that the R&A have put into this event coming to Northern Ireland, I'm really satisfied, optimistic and confident that this is going to be a wonderful event.

"We have looked at this very carefully, we have been aware of what is coming up at the end of March from every angle, and we are incredibly confident that everybody is going to have a first-class experience.

"There is an incredible energy in the town of Portrush where new buildings are being constructed, older ones given a facelift and pavements repaired and replaced."

Traders and residents share that optimism but were worried about the impact of Mr Slumber's comments.

Aileen Campbell, owner of the Ocean Cafe, said: "I was quite concerned about Mr Slumber's comments because he kept talking about contingency plans.

"Obviously Brexit is scaring us all but I am glad he did say they will make it work.

"A lot of the traders are looking forward to the buzz that's going to be around the town in the evenings."

John Gregg, whose business sells sweets and souvenirs, said: "I don't know if Brexit will make any difference or not but I am looking forward to the Open Championship in July and I think anyone who is planning on coming here will come regardless."

Local resident Stephen Vij said: "The majority of people are looking forward to the Open. We are really grateful for the work that is being done around the town despite the upset to our day-to-day life."

Pauline McNicholl added: "I cannot understand how Brexit will impact on The Open. I really hope it doesn't because Portrush is a premier golfing destination now and we can't wait for July."

The decision to host The Open at Portrush was announced in October 2015, eight months before the referendum to leave the European Union.

Mr Slumbers had said the continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit was causing organisational headaches for golf's governing body.

"In hindsight, would I be wanting to do Portrush in the year that we would be potentially leaving the European Union without a deal? No," he had said.

"We have engagement with ministers and Parliament but the concern is all around certainty. If you know the rules you're playing by, then you can play; you optimise what you've got.

"The problem is we don't know whether to reschedule to bring all our containers in through Dublin, whether to move them through Belfast, whether to ship them out of the UK now."

Yesterday, he moved to clarify his comments.

"We are determined to deliver an outstanding championship at Royal Portrush and stage the biggest ever sporting event ever to be held on the island of Ireland," he said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that it is going be an historic occasion and fans will be able to look back on this year's championship as one of the great sporting events.

"It is a privilege to be bringing The Open back to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951 and we are all looking forward to it very much.

"We are working with our partners and the local agencies in Northern Ireland to stage a fantastic championship of which everyone will be proud."

Belfast Telegraph

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