Time to ban men-only clubs? Politics arrives at the Open Championship

Marion Bartoli: "Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker."
The Open Championship: An improbable frontline in the struggle for equality
Alex Stevenson By

Labour is demanding an outright ban on men-only clubs, as culture secretary Maria Miller boycotts the Open Championship in Muirfield.

Miller attacked golf's governing body, the Royal and Ancient, last week by saying it should not be "turning a blind eye" to "the sexism that still exists in some quarters".

Now Harriet Harman has gone further, calling for an outright ban on men-only clubs.

"After the recent successes of female sport it's an embarrassment that this year's British Open, a world class sporting event, is being held at a club which does not admit women members," she said.


"It's time that Muirfield dragged itself into the 21st century and let women in. It’s time to ban men-only sport clubs."

Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond is also boycotting the Open, which is run by the exclusively male Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

"I just object to clubs where people of both sexes can't be members of the course," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

"So that view hasn't changed as my message to clubs like Muirfield, and I can name all the all-male clubs in the UK, is that not to have female members sends out entirely the wrong message about the future of golf."

Last year the ultra-conservative Augusta National, where the Masters is hosted every year, voted to admit women to its membership.

Muirfield says women are permitted to play as visitors or guests - and are even permitted to tee off without being accompanied by a member.

"We conform to the Equality Act 2010 and any change would be for the members to decide," a spokesman said.

"There are no plans to change the current membership status."

Miller vs the commentator

Maria Miller fired another broadside against sexism in sport earlier, with an angry letter to the BBC's director-general Lord Hall demanding to know what "further action" is being taken against BBC Sport's John Inverdale.

The veteran hack was forced to apologise in writing to Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli after suggesting she had to become a gritty tennis player because she was not a "looker".

During BBC Radio 5 Live's commentary on the final he said: "I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe: 'Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker.

"You are never going to be somebody like a [Maria] Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5 feet 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.

"You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it.' And she kind of is."

Miller's letter stated increased coverage of women's sport was one of her "key priorities" and that it was "therefore a matter of some concern to me that any comment on the looks and stature of a female athlete could be made"

She wrote: "I am sure you will agree with me that it is vital that young women and girls in this country feel motivated both to take part in and to watch coverage of sport, and to know that they are included in the enjoyment of sport, and catered for by the media just as much as the male audience.

"Whilst I note that Mr Inverdale has apologised both on-air and in writing to Ms Bartoli, I would be grateful for an update on any further action that is likely to be taken following [the] complaints, and whether there may be positive steps that the BBC could take in the future to ensure that the perception of and commentary on female athletes, and women’s sport generally, are as positive and inclusive as possible."

Inverdale has a track record of questionable comments about the appearances of women. In 2006 he suggested the name of the horse Princess Anne rode to win the European Championships in 1971 was "Camilla".

Comments

Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.