R&A launches seven million pounds funding package for Britain and Ireland

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LONDON (Reuters) - The R&A has launched a seven million pounds ($8.54 million)funding package to help golf in Britain and Ireland deal with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The R&A which governs the sport outside the U.S and Mexico and organises The Open, golf's oldest major, said the fund will be aimed at national associations and other affiliated bodies.

Golf courses have been closed in Britain since March as the country was locked down to try and halt the spread of the virus.

A slight easing of the lockdown means clubs are now beginning to open their courses although players must adhere to strict social-distancing rules.

"The pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on golf and many clubs are facing dire financial situations through no fault of their own," Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A, said.

"Golf is in our DNA and we want to see the sport continue to thrive from grassroots right through to the top level on the professional tours. We have a responsibility to do what we can to help in such a crisis."

The R&A said it is working with national associations and other selected organisations, with each body being responsible for controlling and allocating its share of funding.

"We know that many challenges lie ahead but club golf is the bedrock of our sport and hopefully this fund will help to begin the process of recovery," Slumbers said.

This year's Open, from which the R&A draws much of its revenue, was to be held at Royal St George's in Sandwich but has been postponed for a year because of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)