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BMW Championship at risk as Wentworth residents demand ‘fair financial deal’

Friction between the residents at Wentworth and the new owners of the club is in evidence again, with the Wentworth Estate Roads Committee (WERC), the body that run the private estate, threatening to disrupt the BMW PGA Championships, due to be held from 26-29 May.

According to a statement released on Saturday by the WERC – statutory body created under an Act of Parliament as custodian of Wentworth Estate, and Wentworth Club and the European Tour – talks have broken down about the 2016 PGA Championship.

The statement says: “WERC is very concerned about the failure of its efforts to ensure that the European Tour adheres to the rules on the Estate and offers a fair financial deal for residents. The hosting of this annual tournament is supported by the majority of residents, subject to its correct management. WERC also appreciates its importance to the golfing world.”

WERC concerns revolve around the following issues:

  • The event currently utilizes land owned by WERC without its permission, including for the construction of cable bridges over Estate roads for TV broadcasting.
  • Advertising hoardings, including those placed on WERC’s own land, are erected without permission and are in breach of Estate covenants.
  • The set up and take-down time of this single event has increased significantly in recent years to the point where it now spans a quarter of the year.
  • The annual payment from the European Tour to the WERC is completely inadequate and reflects neither the inconvenience borne by the residents nor the commercial value derived by the European Tour from using WERC land and other infrastructure.

Tariq Rafique, Vice Chairman of WERC, said“The residents of the estate are very supportive of hosting the PGA Championship event and it is a great shame that the European Tour has been unable to meet our concerns and put in place a reasonable arrangement which respects the rules and covenants governing the Estate.

“Frankly, the last thing the residents of Wentworth wanted was another public argument, but we want to ensure everyone plays by the rules and that residents are treated fairly. We tried to initiate this discussion in September of last year and it is most regrettable that this matter was not addressed sooner by the European Tour and the Club. We sincerely hope that these issues can be resolved and that the PGA Championship can take place as planned, with the full support of residents, as has happened previously over several decades.”

Currently, the European Tour, which organises the tournament, pays just £14,000 a year for the right to use the land for the golf tournament – it is believed that WERC wants in the region of £300,000 a year.

A spokesperson for The European Tour said: “As we have stated in the past, this is a dispute between the Wentworth Estates Roads Committee and the Wentworth Club itself. The European Tour has looked to engage in constructive dialogue with the WERC over a number of months in an attempt to resolve matters but to no avail, as the WERC’s demands were extortionate and unreasonable.

“Furthermore, we do not believe that WERC would have any grounds for legal action and any claim at this stage would be unsuccessful. In addition, the action they took this week to attempt to disrupt the build was unlawful and the WERC have been advised of this by the Wentworth Club’s lawyers. There is zero chance that this year’s Championship will not take place.”