Town councillors divided over golf star plan

TWO MONTROSE councillors are at odds over an Angus plan to sign up Scottish golf star Catriona Matthew in a five-figure ambassadorial role.

Montrose Alliance councillor David May has praised the decision as he feels that it will boost tourism in the area. Meanwhile, Angus finance convener Councillor Mark Salmond has stated that the move has left him “uncomfortable”.

Councillors voted last week to approve a package which will provide Angus Council sponsorship to the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open which will take place over the Carnoustie Championship Course.

The package includes the involvement of former winner Ms Matthew and Taiwanese superstar Yani Tseng.

Supporters of the package have said that the exposure of the event alone, last year 390 million people around the world watched the competition, is an unmissable opportunity.

Carnoustie councillor Helen Oswald is supporting the move. She said: “The Carnoustie Country brand will be blasted across the television screens of the world and we could not buy this level of exposure - we cannot let opportunities like this go past.

“It ticks all the boxes and why anyone would disagree with this is beyond me.”

Mr May is also keen to show his support for the sponsorship package. He said: “I believe this will greatly help to increase awareness to a worldwide audience of the Carnoustie Country brand.

“In that I do not mean our golf courses but tourism in our area generally - our Angus heritage and outdoor activities such as walking, fishing and cycling.

“In addition, the brand helps in the promotion of our festivals and events which feature in all our burghs as well as food and drink providers.

“This will, I believe, provide worldwide coverage for all of them.

“The deal with sponsorship of The Open as well as the ambassadorial package is a superb means of boosting these areas by the marketing opportunity provided.”

Mr Salmond opposes this view and has said that he feels “uncomfortable” with the player deals following the February council budget which contained around £8 million of cuts.

He said: “I support the council’s involvement in China and our current strategy to use the Carnoustie Country brand to promote golf in Angus.

“I hope that in the near future a financial return in the form of royalties will start to flow into Angus Council from the sale of Carnoustie Country golf clothing.

“I am more than happy to support sponsorship of the Ricoh Women’s British Open Championship in 2011 but I have a great moral dilemma about the other recommendations.

“This year’s budget was probably the most difficult in this council’s history, so it sits very uncomfortably with me that after all this hard work and pain that this report recommends using £25,000 of Angus Council taxpayers’ money to pay a professional sports person to wear a logo on their clothing.

“I feel that once this sponsorship package starts rolling it will be very difficult to stop and I have no doubt that a commitment today will ultimately mean a £50,000 commitment over two years.

“For me this comes down to judgement and I cannot in all good conscience support that part of the report.

“Any surplus money infrastructure services have should be focused on one thing and one thing only - repairing the potholes in Angus’s roads.

“That is the public’s number one priority and it should be ours.”

Arbroath councillor Peter Nield agreed with Mr Salmond. He said: “I totally and utterly support the backing of The Open, but I do not in any way support giving £50,000 to an already rich woman for a four-day pack of promotional work and a ‘look at me’ walk-through.

“We could have probably had two road sweepers in Angus for what we are paying and, let’s face it, the roads in Angus are pretty untidy at the moment after the winter we have had.

“Staff are on a pay freeze, we are not filling vacancies and there are changes to teachers’ terms and conditions so we shouldn’t be spending money on a pro’s lifestyle.”