Thursday, 30 March 2017

What does Brexit mean for the Ryder Cup?

Theresa May yesterday triggered Article 50, signalling the UK’s exit from the EU in two year’s time. The potential impact on the UK and the rest of the EU has been debated ad nauseam, but as well as the economic, political and cultural implications, will there be an unexpected effect on the world of golf?

Since 1979 the USA has competed against Europe rather than Great Britain / Great Britain and Ireland, who had only troubled the trophy engravers once since the Second World War. That created the problem of what flag to match up against the stars and stripes, and the EU flag emerged as the most suitable even though non-EU Europeans could represent Europe (none actually have).

However, once the UK is no longer part of the EU the bulk of the team every two years could well be from a non-EU country. For example, in 2012, 2014 and 2016 seven out of twelve team members were from the UK. Will the EU flag still be appropriate, and if not, what could be used in its place?

The European Tour, which manages the European Ryder Cup team, has said that they consider the flag to represent the whole of Europe and that they will continue to use it. However, with Brexit representing a considerable change in European affairs, with possible repercussions across the continent, it remains to be seen whether it can still be viewed as representative of the whole of Europe.

The Ryder Cup is unlikely to form part of the Brexit negotiations, they’ve got plenty to sort out besides, but it will be interesting to see under what flag the Europe team lines up in Whistling Straits in 2020. At the very least it will have one less star on it.