|From L to R – Faisal Al Sheikh (TCA Abu Dhabi), Clair Peterson (John Deere), Ivan Khodabakhsh (Ladies European Tour), Giles Morgan (HSBC)
The global growth of golf and the rise of Asia as a region with major golf potential set the agenda at the HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi.
More than 260 golf business leaders from 30 countries attended the event at the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, April 28-30, connecting leading companies, organisations and individuals.
Speaking about the international opportunities for the golf business, Giles Morgan, HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, called for a customer-centric approach to drive increased participation in established and emerging markets.
“Golf needs to take a broader approach, it is not just about the game,” he said. “Golf must be flexible, it must reflect the zeitgeist for inclusion, it must ensure it is sustainable, and it must uphold the traditions of the game but instigate innovation.”
The opportunity for golf to capitalise on its inclusion in the Olympics at Rio 2016 was discussed in a leaders’ question time featuring Antony Scanlon of the International Golf Federation, sports executive Donna Orender, Guy Kinnings of IMG and Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the R&A.
Antony Scanlon said, “Golf at the Olympics has a potential TV audience of 3.4 billion. I don’t think everything will change immediately, but we have an opportunity around the halo effect – three weeks after the Olympics 75% of viewers will have seen a sport they hadn’t seen before.”
“I think it is a great opportunity to showcase men and women being equal in golf,” he added.
Focusing on the rise of golf in Asia, the conference heard that China is the fastest growing market for golf development in the world. With more than 600 courses already open, it is estimated up to 1,500 courses are required to satisfy current demand.
Guy Kinnings of IMG predicted the next global superstar would come from either China or Korea, while Peter Dawson responded to a call for a major championship in Asia.
“Clearly, it is illogical that as golf in Asia grows there would be three majors in America and one in the UK. It is not possible for a golfing body to determine an event in Asia should become a major, but I have no doubt it will happen in due time.”
Mr Dawson, who recently announced he would retire from the R&A in 2015, was presented with the HSBC Golf Business Forum Lifetime Achievement Award by Italian golf sensation Matteo Mannasero, an ambassador for Golf in Abu Dhabi.
Peter Dawson said: “I’d like to thank everyone here at the HSBC Golf Business Forum. It’s a thrill to receive this in front of so many people who are involved in the business of golf and love the game. It’s a particular thrill to receive this from Matteo – I have known him for many years and at such a young age he is a fantastic ambassador for golf.”
Wrapping up the conference, with a strong hint that the 2015 HSBC Golf Business Forum could be in Shanghai, China, Guy Kinnings, IMG Global Head of Golf, said, ““It has been a fantastic inaugural event for IMG and our thanks go to our sponsors, especially HSBC and the TCA, and to our hosts at the Westin. We wanted this forum to be a forward looking conference whilst learning from the past we have looked into the world of innovation and how this may help shape the future of this sport we love. Rest assured as we move forward with this event our commitment to this will grow and evolve and I hope we have done it proud in our inaugural year.”