Significant Number of Fans Expected to Attend The Open
Golf's oldest major championship, The Open, was a significant loss to the sporting calender last July, representing the first year since the Second World War that the Claret Jug wasn't awarded to the Champion Golfer.
However, the clock is gratefully ticking down towards the belated 149th edition at Royal St George's in Kent, where infrastructure and stands have already been established, suggesting a return to something more closely resembling normal.
But it's one thing having the seats, you need to have people to fill them, and a new update from R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers offers a degree of cautious optimism that we could again hear the roars back on the British seaside.
He said: "As we look forward with increasing optimism, and continuing caution, to an exciting summer of sport in the UK, I would like to update you on our planning for The 149th Open at Royal St George’s from 11-18 July 2021.
"The situation with the Covid-19 pandemic continues to improve in the UK and 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, however, and is still extracting a terrible human cost in some parts of the world. Our thoughts and best wishes continue to be with all those affected.
"We are working hard with the government, public health authorities and our health and safety advisers to ensure that we comply fully with all emerging guidelines. Our absolute priority is to ensure we can stage The Open safely for all involved.
"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 by the government, on issues such as social distancing, testing and Covid certification, which 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.
"I fully recognise the challenges that awaiting further guidance causes for our fans, players, volunteers and officials and 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 as we work through the process and respond to the government guidance as it emerges. We will provide further updates in the coming weeks.
"Our end goal remains to stage a fantastic Open at Royal St George’s and give our fans and players something to be genuinely thrilled about this summer. It has been too long since we have been able to see the world’s best men’s golfers competing on one of our greatest links courses and I’m sure you are looking forward as eagerly as I am to what will be a truly memorable sporting occasion."
There is no word on the specific number of spectators that will be accepted, but it certainly sounds like more than a nominal total. 179,700 attended the last championship at Sandwich - won by Darren Clarke - and early ticket sales (pre-pandemic) had surpassed record speed, highlighting the attractive draw that the event continues to retain.
Stadia will reopen this month, with fans returning to Premier League football and the FA Cup final, and it's hoped that those measures will encourage greater access to arenas as we progress into the next stage out of lockdown.
The Open at Royal St George's promises to be a magical jewel in a memorable summer of British sport.
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