Open at Royal Portrush to be first all-ticket affair

Open at Royal Portrush to be first all-ticket affair
Royal Portrush’s Dunluce Links

Royal Portrush’s Dunluce Links

The Rory McIlroy effect has forced The R&A to make next year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush an all-ticket affair with sell-out crowds expected for the first of three stagings at the Dunluce links by 2040.

The all-ticket announcement coincides with a new forecast of the value The Open will bring to the Northern Ireland visitor economy next year, up to over €90m from the €79m announced in 2015 when it was revealed that The Open would return to Portrush for the first time since 1951.

The R&A is launching hospitality package and online ticket sales earlier than ever to meet the expected demand.

A no readmission condition of sale will also be in place to protect fans from falling victim to ticket and hospitality fraud.

While the final figure has yet to be confirmed, it's likely that no more than 50,000 fans a day will attend with be at Royal Portrush with the R&A set to install 20,000 seats in grandstands around what is a tight venue.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said: “The independent economic impact and market-sizing analysis confirms that The Open at Royal Portrush will be the largest sport event to be staged in Northern Ireland.

“Moving to all-ticket system for the first time will help us to manage the anticipated crowds effectively so we can deliver the outstanding spectator experience fans expect of one of the world’s great sporting events.

"The long-lasting legacy of staging the Championship will spur new growth in the golf tourism market in Ireland for decades to come.”

When it was announced in February that the R&A was considering a crowd limit, its Chief Executive Martin Slumbers said the McIlroy effect was a factor.

"I think it could be a big crowd," he said. "And if Rory keeps playing well, it'll be an even bigger crowd."

The 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush attracted a record European Tour crowd of over 130,000.

And with The Open regularly attracting 40,000 a day — some 42,000 watched McIlroy win at Hoylake in 2014 — the 2019 Open could be historic.

Last year's Open at Royal Birkdale, won by American Jordan Spieth, attracted record crowds for an Open on English soil with 235,000 people attending during tournament week which includes the practice days.

It was the third highest ever, falling shy of the St Andrews Opens of 2000 (239,000) and 2015 (237,000).

As for the event's value to the economy north of the border, a new independent forecast from the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University estimates a total economic impact for Northern Ireland from The Open of €38m.

A separate study by Kantar Media calculates the destination marketing benefit from exposure on global television to be worth a further €58 million to the visitor economy.

The economic impact study estimates that more than €19 million will be spent off course during the week of The Open in local hotels, shops, restaurants and bars.

The agreement to stage The Open at Royal Portrush extends to three Championships through to 2040 and enhanced local infrastructure will enable events including the Senior Open and the Women's British Open Championship to consider Royal Portrush as a future venue.

The Boys Amateur Championship will be staged at Royal Portrush in August, which follows the successful staging of The Amateur Championship there in 2014 and the Ladies British Amateur Championship in 2011.