Irish Open kicked to touch as "3" pulls sponsorship plug

Robert Finnegan, CEO of 3, has decided that sponsoring soccer is a better bet that continuing to support the Irish Open.The future of the Irish Open was plunged into doubt yet again when mobile phone giants 3 announced on Friday that it will not be renewing its sponsorship deal for a third year.

In a statement, the company said that “following two successful years sponsoring the Irish Open and approximately €8 million euro worth of investment” and following “a review of its sponsorship portfolio, a decision was taken to streamline activities.”

Kicking golf into touch, the communications company added that it believes that “its support of the Irish football team will deliver the most commercial value for the brand into the future.”

Padraig Harrington in action in Killarney in May this yearThey added: “3 has endeavoured to re-position the Irish Open as a world-class sporting event, and this year’s event in Killarney showcased Ireland, golf, and hospitality at its very best.”

Robert Finnegan, CEO of 3, explained: “3 has worked tirelessly over the last two years and invested over €8 million to support the return of the Irish Open to world-class status.

“Following a great Irish finish with Shane Lowry in Baltray and having worked hard to secure a new date on the August Bank Holiday weekend, attendance at this year’s tournament in Killarney hit 82,000 – the highest for many years.

“Following 3’s commitment over the last two years, the Irish Open can continue to grow from strength to strength from here. We wish everyone involved in Irish golf continued success in the future.”

Mary Hanafin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture & Sport commented: “The sponsorship of the Irish Open golf tournament by 3 has been central in ensuring the success of the tournament in Baltray in 2009 and in Killarney in 2010 where the event was widely acknowledged as being one of the best Irish Opens ever.

The 3 Irish Open attracted huge crowds to Killarney“I am mindful of the challenging financial climate in which the commercial world is operating at the moment and I acknowledge and appreciate the ongoing sponsorship of sport by 3 both at national and grassroots levels.

“I expect that the European Tour and Fáilte Ireland will now turn their attention to seeking a new sponsor so that the event can continue to be one of the showcases of Irish sport and of Ireland as a destination for golf.”

George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, was understood to be meeting with Finnegan on Friday to discuss the decision.