£50,000 to sponsor a top golfer - or mend roads?

ANGUS Council has decided to sponsor Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew to the tune of £50,000 to cover a two-year deal.

In return, she will act as an ambassador for Carnoustie Country golf, and promote the brand in tournaments throughout the world.

Ms Matthew, currently top lady Brit in the world ranking at number 30, will be taking part in the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open in July at Carnoustie, an event she won two years ago - only 11 weeks after giving birth.

The benefits include:

r She will carry the Carnoustie Country logo in all events she takes part in, and she will not promote any other destination.

r Carnoustie Country will have the use of global advertising rights allowing the use of her name, image, fame and endorsement in any promotional and marketing activity.

r She will devote two days per year to ‘service days’, when she will act as host at an assortment of activities.

A package for the Women’s Open, totalling £21,100, was approved without dissent.

But Angus Council’s sponsorship of Catriona Matthew has not lacked its detractors.

Arbroath councillor Jim Millar said: “I am happy to support the Women’s Open Championship, as I know how important these events are to Carnoustie.”

“Having said that, to spend what will undoubtedly end up as £50,000 paying a professional golfer to wear a logo when times are so tough that libraries are closing is just beyond the pale.

“Many people do not realise that ‘Carnoustie Country’ items such as golf balls, clothing and umbrellas are already manufactured, but they are made in China and not available to purchase here. So we are now in the position that we are creating jobs in China, whilst the shops on our High Streets are closing down.

“We are not told how successful similar sponsorships have been, and we have not been told how this will be evaluated, so to my mind, this is purely speculative, and I’m not here to gamble with public money.

“The fact is, that the money being spent paying someone to wear a logo, would have kept one of the rural libraries open for five years.”

Fellow Arbroath councillor Peter Nield added: “I have no issue with supporting the Women’s Open, but to spend £50,000 on having someone wear a logo is outrageous.

“Recently, we had to pass what had to be one of the toughest budgets that the council has ever had to face, and future local government settlements from Holyrood may well make it even harder to balance the books.”

“In light of this, I think it sends out entirely the wrong message, when it is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver services within existing budgets, that we spend £50,000 in this way.

And finance convener Mark Salmond said he was “uncomfortable” with the use to which the money was being put, and said that repairing the potholes in Angus Roads was the public’s number one priority.

The package was moved by Montrose councillor David May, who said the deal would benefit all activities, leisure and manufacturing in Angus.

He was supported by Carnoustie councillor Helen Oswald, who said the deal ticked all the boxes, and would blast the Carnoustie Country brand across the TV screens of the world, adding: “We could not buy this level of exposure.”