Open Championship: Officials admit Brexit headache over Royal Portrush venue

Guests had the opportunity to get their picture taken with the Claret Jug as in January Tourism NI marked the start of the official build-up to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush with a celebration of Northern Irish talent from sport, music, arts and screen at Titanic Belfast. Pictured are Martin Slumbers and Jim Crone. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Guests had the opportunity to get their picture taken with the Claret Jug as in January Tourism NI marked the start of the official build-up to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush with a celebration of Northern Irish talent from sport, music, arts and screen at Titanic Belfast. Pictured are Martin Slumbers and Jim Crone. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers admits he will “quite pleased” when this year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush is over after revealing the “significant concern” being caused by Brexit.

Portrush will stage the Open for the first time since 1951 from July 18-21 and tickets for the championship days at the Northern Ireland venue have already sold out.

However, that decision was announced in October 2015, eight months before the referendum to leave the European Union, and the continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit - and in particular the backstop to retain an open border on the island of Ireland - is causing headaches.

“Like every business, and I think about the Open as such, the lack of certainty about the rules, the law in which we are operating under post-March 29 has caused us significant concern,” Slumbers said. “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.

“We as a management team have spent a lot of time looking at contingencies and what we need to do. The future of the border is the number one concern. We have over 2000 containers (some from as far afield as the Middle East) to get across the Irish Sea and we start building on April 2.

“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.

“It doesn’t threaten the staging, we will make it happen. It’s just more complex than we anticipated. For the insiders it’s a bit harder but for everyone outside it won’t impact at all, they won’t notice.

“We are fully sold out for the championship days and 70 percent of the spectators are Irish. I think it will be very noisy and pretty exciting, especially if a few Irish players start to really perform.”