Turmoil for Scottish Golf amid negative media stories

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 23, 2020 19:32

A national Scottish newspaper has called for the chair of Scottish Golf to resign while a separate media outlet states the organisation is facing legal issues, in the wake of the resignation of its CEO.

Andrew McKinlay resigned as chief executive just a few hours ago, officially due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the narrative about the organisation has already changed.

According to an editorial in The Scotsman, ‘Scottish Golf faces rebellion unless Eleanor Cannon quits’. Eleanor Cannon is the chair of the organisation which is now looking for its fourth chief executive in just over four years. And the article by Martin Dempster, arguably the leading golfing journalist in the UK, is a scathing attack unlike anything I’ve read by him in recent years.

‘It is edging close to being time for Scottish golf clubs to be contemplating a rebellion,’ he writes.

‘Even some of the developing golfing countries around the world would be aghast to be running their game in the manner Scotland is at the moment. Scottish Golf is stumbling from one disaster to another, and it is time for action to be taken in order for that to stop.

‘We are being told that McKinlay decided to step down to help alleviate the increasing financial pressure, but something doesn’t add up there. I smell a rat, in fact. Did somebody go behind McKinlay’s back to the board over his bid to furlough staff working on the Venue Management System (VMS), a software programme designed to simplify golf clubs’ tee booking, competition scoring, handicapping and other administration?

‘And was it this which resulted in him being overruled? A fortnight ago, after all, we were told that work would be continuing on the development and testing of a new VMS being offered to member clubs.

‘Did someone feel that remained a priority rather than addressing the immediate crisis, with some of the 550-odd clubs affiliated to Scottish Golf expressing genuine fears about still being in existence when the sport is given the green light to start up again? If so, that is disgraceful and, quite frankly, unacceptable in the current climate.

‘Unless [Eleanor Cannon] now steps down along with the other members of her board then, yes, it is indeed time for a rebellion to be led by stakeholders.

‘Cannon, in particular, but the board as a whole has lost the confidence of the people who provide the bulk of Scottish Golf’s funding – the club members.

Eleanor Cannon

And in a separate development but closely linked to Dempster’s comments about the VMS, bunkered.co.uk has revealed that Scottish Golf is embroiled in a legal dispute over its new software plans.

‘Lawyers have been brought in over concerns that Scottish Golf’s new software system is being rolled out illegally,’ it reports.

‘Three independent software developers have engaged the services of the Competition and Markets Authority, the government department responsible for preventing anti-competitive activity in the UK, to probe the organisation’s implementation of its new system.

‘Scottish Golf stands accused of trying to “railroad” the country’s 575 clubs into using its new, all-purpose software system, which includes a new Central Database of Handicaps. According to Scottish Golf, the new system is mandatory, clubs having been told that “current Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) who provide handicapping software for clubs will no longer be given any access to handicapping calculations or any handicap data through open APIs or any other means.”

‘This, in turn, effectively eliminates all other software providers currently operating in Scotland.

‘The software companies in question had attempted to enter into dialogue to resolve the issue as recently as December only for Scottish Golf to say it could only discuss issues through its lawyers.

‘In turn, the three software companies served legal papers in February and immediately brought in the Competition Markets Authority.’

The two stories have overshadowed the announcement that Karin Sharp will lead Scottish Golf as chief operating officer following the resignation of Andrew McKinlay.

Sharp, who worked for Royal Bank of Scotland for 23 years, has been with Scottish Golf as COO since 2015.

She, along with chief commercial officer Iain Forsyth, has taken a voluntary 20 per cent pay cut.

“Now more than ever we need strong leadership backed up by robust actionable plans,” said Scottish Golf chair Eleanor Cannon.

“Karin has outstanding operational pedigree gained through various leadership roles within RBS where her career spanned 23 years.”

McKinlay joined Scottish Golf to succeed Blane Dodds after working at the Scottish FA, and Cannon said McKinlay “has helped take the organisation forward and has now taken a very difficult decision”.

He described it as a “privilege” to lead the organisation and says the changes he put in place can lead to its “prosperous future”.

Scottish Golf is also hoping to emulate the Ulster branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland and secure data on golf clubs’ financial situations against the backdrop of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 23, 2020 19:32
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1 Comment

  1. William April 23, 20:25

    It’s just not good enough, you can be the best business person in the World .but if you don’t understand Golf it isn’t going to Work

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