The Sports Law & Policy Centre | The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s Rules on Amateur Status 2012-15
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The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s Rules on Amateur Status 2012-15

By Fatema Merchant

Introduction

The shift of balance in favour of professionalism initiated and propelled by globalization gradually induced many countries to derecognize amateurism on account of the diminishing interest and participation in amateur sports. The US and UK are among the handful of nations which still recognize and encourage amateurism. Golf, which is a popular sporting discipline in both these countries, has distinct rules and regulations governing amateur and professional golfers. Though a common misconception, amateur sportspersons are not synonymous with beginners or persons playing the sport for recreation, as a hobby or participating in it for leisure. To be eligible as an amateur, the player or athlete must possess a specified amount of skill and reputation and must abstain from receiving any substantial pecuniary gains which may be a natural corollary to such engagement in the sport. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (“R & A Club”) in Scotland and the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) have collectively framed the revised Rules of Amateur Status 2012-15 for golfers worldwide.

R & A Rules of Amateur Status 2012-15

The R & A Club governs and regulates the sport of golf globally, except in the USA and Mexico, where the same is administered by the USGA. The R & A Club Rules on Amateur Status 2012-15 (“Rules”) were devised and framed to augment and foster the institution of amateur sports and to motivate amateur golfers to focus on the benefits and perks indigenous to the sport, as opposed to the commercial and financial emoluments it offers.The Rules outline the eligibility criteria for golfers to engage in tournaments as amateurs, and also prescribe limits and restrictions on the compensation including prize money and consideration (for imparting golf knowledge and training), expenses, promotional/ endorsement and other commercial activities that such amateur golfers can avail of or engage in.

Eligibility

In order to be eligible to participate in any amateur competition or tour and/or maintain amateur status, a golfer must not play the game as a professional, work as a professional golfer, enter or participate in any tournament or competition as a professional golfer, hold or retain membership of any Professional Golf Association (PGA) or any professional tour which is restricted exclusively and particularly for professional golfers, work as a professional golfer, enter or participate in any tournament or competition as a professional golfer, hold or retain membership of any Professional Golf Association (PGA) or any professional tour which is restricted exclusively and particularly for professional golfers. However, the golfer is allowed to acquire or continue membership with any PGA provided it is solely for administrative purposes and may also participate in any qualifying matches to gain the requisite eligibility for a professional tour by relinquishing all rights and interests to any prizes or winnings being offered in such a competition.

The Rules also regulate the nature of contracts and other agreements such amateurs may become parties to and allows them to enter into contractual relationships with the national golf clubs or associations of their country, provided they do not receive any monetary advantage or gains by virtue of such contracts. In addition, amateur golfers are also permitted to contract with third parties including agents and sponsors after consulting with the national governing body of their country, only if such an agreement is for the purpose of the golfer’s future as a professional and does not pertain to participation in any amateur or professional tournament, and does not confer any financial gains except as specifically entailed in the Rules. However, an amateur under the age of 18 may enter into non-renewable contracts with third parties of a duration not exceeding 12 months, after receiving the necessary approval from the governing body to such extent.

Prizes and Match Winnings

Under the Rules, an amateur may accept match winnings, prize money or vouchers, provided the total of such winnings, prize money and vouchers does not exceed 500 pounds in a single competition/match or a series of competitions/matches/tournaments of any form whatsoever. The amateur whose total winnings add up to the above mentioned limit, is not barred from participation solely on these grounds and may still participate in any event, competition or tournament offering a prize money or any equivalent winning by waiving any right to such winnings prior to participation. However, the prizes offered for the hole-in-ones made/scored during a round of golf and ancillary to such rounds, are not included in the above limit and hence an amateur golfer may accept several prizes including cash prizes for the same, even though they singularly or in total exceed 500 pounds.

Amateur golfers are also allowed to accept testimonial awards for their ‘notable performances or contributions to golf as distinguished from competition prizes and winnings.’ The value of a single testimonial award, if it is in the nature of cash, cannot surpass the limit prescribed on prize moneys as mentioned above, however, the amateur golfer may accept multiple testimonial awards, notwithstanding that their cumulative value exceeds the limit set for a single award, provided they aren’t being issued to circumvent the Rules. With respect to handicap competitions, the recommended prize limit is higher than the prize limit prescribed for other competitions and also varies with different types of competitions.

The USGA which regulates golf in USA and Mexico, has on the other hand stipulated a 750 dollar cap on the amount of money an amateur golfer may accept as prize money or winnings.

Expenses

The Rules permit amateurs to receive compensation for the reasonable expenses actually incurred by them with respect to their participation in competitions and tournaments. While there is no restriction on the amount of money an amateur may acquire from family or a legal guardian for the purpose of expenses, an amateur golfer may not accept the same from any other person or entity unless he acquires the sanction of and receives payment from his/her own country’s governing body in case of a domestic competition or from the governing body of the other country where such competition is being held with the prior approval of the amateur’s governing body.

Similarly, an amateur golfer may receive expenses for participating in sponsored handicap competitions and tournaments, provided the sponsor of such a competition has sought the prior approval of the amateur player’s national governing body for golf, if the competition is to be held in the player’s home country, or the permission of each governing body if it involves players from several countries, or is to be conducted in more than one country. In addition, the governing body may, at its own discretion, prescribe the number of competitive days in a year for which the amateur may receive expenses which may cover the travel time and practice days pertaining to the competitive days and the amateur golfer is required to adhere to such a limit. An amateur golfer may also receive expenses for participating in a representative team event.

Amateur golfers are also permitted to receive expenses for indirectly participating in an event in any capacity other than that which is directly linked to the golfer’s skill or reputation. Moreover, an amateur taking part or attending any exhibition or charity event which is not organized or conducted in connection with a golfing event is entitled to receive expenses. An amateur golfer may also receive subsistence allowance and expenses for the actual expenses incurred, provided the same is remitted to him through the national golf association or union of his/her country which shall also have the sole discretion to determine which expenses are worthy of falling into the category. The amateur golfer is however; precluded at all times from promoting or advertising in any manner, the source, or any person, entity etc. from whom such expenses are received.

Promotion, Advertising and Sale

The Rules prohibit an amateur golfer from promoting, endorsing or selling any product, commodity, service, entity, etc., in return for any monetary or like returns and bars an amateur from letting any third party or entity from using the golfer’s image, name, skill, reputation, standing, etc. for any such commercial activity unless it is for the promotion of the golfer’s national golf union or association, a recognized charitable cause, or any golf competition or event (subject to the prior consent of the national golf association or union) if such endorsement is beneficial for the promotion and development of the game, on a pro bono basis. The objective of the Rules is to discourage extensive publicity and promotion of any commercial organization or other entities; however, the Rules permit minimal display and recognition on golf equipment and clothing and also allow amateurs to procure equipment from suppliers provided the same isn’t an advertising gimmick or attempt.

In addition, an amateur golfer is restrained from using any skill or reputation and receiving any payment for making any public appearances; however, the golfer may accept reasonable expenses for making such an appearance in an event where no participation and competition or exhibition or display of golf skill is involved. The Rules also allow the amateur golfer to accept remuneration or other financial benefits for broadcasting and writing (books, articles, etc.) with respect to golf if the same is his primary vocation or in case it is a part time indulgence if he/she is the author, creator or composer of the same, provided no golf instruction is involved in the same. The amateur is also permitted to accept scholarships, grants etc. after obtaining the prior approval and permission of the governing body. The Rules also permit an amateur golfer to enroll in a golf club or accept membership thereof, without making any payment or promise of payment, if the same is not obtained under the cover/disguise of playing for such a club or association.

Enforcement, Reinstatement and Appeals

Any amateur golfer found to have infringed any of the Rules may either be stripped of amateur status or may be subject to specific conditions which may require the golfer to refrain from certain conduct or behavior in order to maintain such amateur status.

Any golfer divested of amateur status may, however, submit an application for reinstatement and restoration to an empowered Committee (of the national governing body or association of golf), which shall have the sole discretion in these matters. The rules empower the Committee to prescribe the period awaiting reinstatement which every disentitled golfer shall mandatorily undergo for the purpose of restoration of his amateur status. For a golfer who indulged in participation or conduct amounting to professionalism the Rules recommend a term of one (1) and two (2) years as the awaiting period for reinstatement for a period of breach less and more than 5 years respectively. However, the Committee has been granted the liberty to reduce or increase the period awaiting reinstatement depending on the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature and intensity of the breach. The rules provide for a minimum of a one (1) year period awaiting reinstatement for golfers who have violated any other provisions of the rules. The golfer who is undergoing the period awaiting reinstatement is to observe and abide by all the rules pertaining to amateur status and shall be barred from participating in competitions and tournaments as an amateur golfer; except as specifically provided in the rules. Irrespective of the nature of the breach a golfer is ideally not eligible for reinstatement more than twice.
The rules mandate the establishment of a mechanism for the purpose of appealing the decisions and orders of the Committee pronounced with respect to any matter under its jurisdiction. Hence all decisions regarding disentitlement, reinstatement, the applicability of the breach etc. are appealable.

Other Provisions

The Rules sanction an amateur golfer to impart golf related knowledge and skill and provide instructions to others, on the condition that the amateurs do not accept any remuneration or compensation for the same, except if the same is given while being a part of a camp or a programme approved by the governing body for golf in the golfer’s home country. However, an amateur employed by an educational academy, institute or system or works as a counselor at any recognized camp or other programmes and initiatives may accept payment for the aforementioned purpose if the total amount of time contributed towards such instructions is less than fifty percent (50%) of the time spent in fulfilling the other obligations of employment.

The amateur golfer is also under an obligation to conduct himself/herself in any way which will not bring disrepute or shall be harmful to the interests and the spirit of amateur sports and fellow athletes. For this purpose, amateur golfers are prohibited from engaging in activities such as certain forms of gambling which may damage the reputation of the game. Though the Rules oppose gambling in all forms, they realize the futility in imposing a ban on all forms of it including the ones that are harmless and are resorted to for pleasure rather than to make profits and gains. Hence, wagers between players who are well known to each other and not entailing extravagant and exorbitant money and cash may be allowed. However, other forms of gambling involving high sums of money and containing stipulations as to the participation or non-participation of players or teams, or auctions of such teams and players is not acceptable and an amateur who indulges in such activities may jeopardize his/her amateur status.

Conclusion

The challenge faced by most governing bodies of sports working towards nurturing and stimulating the growth of the waning discipline of amateur sports is formulating rules and regulations which uphold the essence and spirit of amateurism and survive the challenges of the changing times, attitudes and practices. The R & A Club rules form a comprehensive code, hold true to the above formula and provide a strong corpus for regulation of amateurism in golf to the national governing bodies and associations of golf in each country.The governing bodies of the countries are to then only provide the intricate details pertaining to procedure and implementation for accomplishing the primary objective and purpose envisaged in these rules. The Rules can be applauded for the sheer pragmatic approach and spirit shown in its provisions that acknowledge the importance of support and reinforcements which amateur golfers and especially the youth may need to pursue their passion. They do not impose unreasonable restrictions on amateurs and provide for various exceptions under which an amateur’s conduct and behavior though against the strict objective of the rules can be accommodated if it does not violate its spirit. The provisions for reinstatement are also commendable as they ensure a fair chance and opportunity to defaulters to correct their behavior and consequently gain back their amateur status. The absence of arbitrariness and rigidity in the rules coupled with a rational and wholesome approach towards preserving and developing amateurism is what makes these rules viable for the amateur players as well as the sport.

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