Monday, 2 June 2014



IT’S possibly injudicious to write about your relatives on a public platform such as this, but lack of judgment seems to form a stout branch of the family tree, so here goes.

Today, I ’m concentrating on what I consider to be exploitation, and also the autumnal madness of my Chicago-based brother- in-law.

Alejandro Gonzales, aka Alex, is a volunteer (one of around 1,800, or so) for this year’s Ryder Cup in September. I’m still wondering whether he has forfeited his wits.

But, before highlighting the plight of the less than privileged key workers at Gleneagles, it’s necessary to paint a picture of a rather incredible and impressive man who, it must be stated, has not uttered one single word of complaint about what’s ahead of him.

At 82 years of age, Alex is a former oil company executive who declares himself quite captivated by the game of golf. As a player, he’s Mr Average in that he’ll never be a reincarnation of Lee Trevino but, there again, he will assuredly never witness the indignity of the number 24 attached to his handicap.

He takes his allegiance to the sport further by dedicating some of his leisure time to the professional game: he’s been a steward at two Ryder Cups, a US Open and quite a few other big tournaments. It allows him, he says, to be close to his heroes. You cannot curb enthusiasm like that, it seems.

But now it’s time to study the exploitative nature of this year’s biennial bun fight between Europe and America. We’ll vote for fairness and start with the one perk afforded volunteers. Most of them work a four-hour shift - and then are permitted to watch the proceedings in their downtime. Now, ain’t that cute?

But prepare yourselves for the negatives. Firstly, workers are expected to pay in the order of £65-70 for their uniforms, which comprise a windcheater, polo shirt and cap.

Surely they are remunerated in other ways? A daily wage, for instance? Er, not so as you would notice. Other than a £15 daily voucher for food and drink, they won’t receive a hillock of beans, far less a hill, for their efforts. Neither, it‘s claimed, are they given an allowance for travelling to Perthshire.

While we’re at it, let’s count the ancillary costs of being a volunteer. Whilst the panjandrums of the competition are firmly ensconced in the luxury of Gleneagles - no doubt contemplating the millions of pounds of profit - the worker ants must scurry around finding their own accommodation. Again, they must pay for this themselves.

To ease this potential burden, Alex originally considered staying at a hotel in nearby Crieff, but was deterred by the prohibitive cost of £200 a night. So, he will stay in Glasgow at approximately £60 a night and make a daily 100-mile round trip in order to perform his duties in the merchandising marquee. Remember, we’re talking about an octogenarian here.

Overall, the cost to his pocket will be equally disturbing: at a conservative estimate, his trip from America will cost him two or three thousand pounds, possibly more.

Now, let me underline again that my brother-in-law’s lips are sealed against recrimination. When I say that the organisers are taking an almighty liberty with willing hands, Alex prefers diplomacy.

“It doesn’t bother me, fortunately,” he responds. “I’m retired and in a (financial) position to do it. Hey, I’m still blessed with the memory of Medinah. Now that came as a complete surprise.

“I’ll always remember that the Europeans were so happy - meanwhile I think the Americans took it in their stride: I didn’t see any confrontations. I don’t think we’ll ever see another ending like that one.”

Alex is not getting off that easily, though. I press him again for a reaction and am rewarded with a token victory. “Oh, I suppose I’d like to see some additional benes (benefits) for the volunteers. We do work hard and try to make it as smooth as possible.”

So what benes would be acceptable? “Oh, okay, the ball swings towards the Ryder Cup group as far as being able to take advantage of myself and others. But, hey, by the same token, if I weren’t there, it would be very easy to fill my shoes. I understand 18,000 people volunteered. That gives you an idea how many people out there want to do this.”

That may be so, but who expects a man to work for nothing in this age of corporate activity and insatiable greed? It is exploitation by any name you can conjure.

There are no firm figures regarding what the European Tour as organisers expect to make from this year’s competition, but I do know that, back in 2006, the K Club in Dublin is said to have cleared £10million after the taxman had deliberated.

They say Gleneagles will generate £100million, so you can take that as around £20 million of clear profit.

Wouldn’t it be nice if each and every one of those volunteers from all over the world went back home with a small but well-earned bonus. Plus a pleasant memory of their time in Scotland?

I’m no actuary, but my instant calculations say it would take just over one and a quarter million pounds to do that. Small potatoes, indeed, considering the crop.

Now, I understand the Scottish Government was highly instrumental in bringing the competition back to Scotland. Perhaps another Alex - the one called Salmond, can supply a rescue package.

Mr Salmond positively thrives on being seen and heard at big events; I also imagine he believes in fairness. What a chance for him to flourish his true mettle.

He could step in and demand justice for the underprivileged of Ryder Cup golf. Surely, it's not beyond him in this year of destiny?