By: Alison Root
Last weekend a statement was released from Cottrell Park Golf Resort headlined Hearing Finds No Evidence of Gender Discrimination at Leading Welsh Golf Resort, and reads as follows:
Claims that a leading Welsh Golf Resort, discriminated against a lady golfer have been thrown out by a disciplinary hearing.
Ms Lowri Roberts, had alleged that access to competitive women’s golf run by Cottrell Park Members Association, (a golf club run by the members), at Cottrell Park Golf Resort was restrictive.
During a formal disciplinary hearing, the award winning Resort confirmed that:
• The Resort has an active membership of lady golfers
• Competitive golf slots are available to lady golfers every Saturday morning during prime times
• That Ms Roberts regularly plays competitive Saturday morning golf at the Resort during prime times
In the run up to the hearing, unfounded allegations about access to golf for women at one of Wales’ busiest golf resorts had been made in social media, reported by the press and even mentioned in the House of Commons by a South Wales MP.
The Resort strenuously denied all allegations made by Ms Roberts.
The finding of the hearing, which took place on Sunday 20 May 2018, dismissed outright the claims of Ms Roberts, that she could not play golf on a Saturday morning during prime times.
The investigation into the allegations found that Lowri Roberts claims’ of discrimination did not stand up to any of the relevant rules, guidelines or legislation provided by:
• The Terms and Condition of Membership of Cottrell Park Golf Resort.
• The Equality Act 2010.
• Wales Golf’s terms of membership and its rules.
• The Royal & Ancient Rules of Golf.
The hearing found that Ms Roberts had in fact acted in contravention of the Terms and Conditions of Membership of the Resort. This breech of the Resort’s Terms and Conditions resulted in a penalty of a month’s suspension. Including the period of the investigation, Ms Roberts is entitled to continue playing casual or competitive golf in a single or mixed gender environment from 8 June.
On hearing the outcome of the proceedings, Mr David Johns-Powell, Managing Director of Cottrell Park Ltd, the owner of the Resort, said:
“The formal decision of the hearing is welcomed by the Resort, and should put an end to the confusion and speculation that has been unnecessarily created.
“Ms Roberts has been playing competitive Saturday morning golf at prime times, and we now look forward to drawing a line under these circumstances and welcoming her back to continue enjoying her membership on our two championship courses.
“We’re incredibly proud that, thanks to our outstanding customer service and unrivalled facilities, Cottrell Park boasts one of the largest golf memberships in Wales.
“We run our Resort with a welcoming, inclusive approach, and we’re always happy for our female and male members to bring their family and friends to visit and explore the facilities on offer – in fact, we strongly encourage it”.
The hearing proceedings, which listened to evidence from both Ms Roberts and the Resort, found no evidence to prove that any form of gender-based discrimination had taken place, and that the publicity campaign by Ms Roberts had served only to bring the good name of the Resort into disrepute.
In fact, when questioning the respondent in the case, the chairman was told that by Ms Roberts that she had been playing competitive golf in the ladies’ competition on Saturday mornings during prime times and that she had even arranged some of those ladies’ Saturday competitions herself.
Over recent months, Women & Golf has followed this story with interest (see previous articles on this website) and yes, the headline of the above statement is true, there is no evidence of gender discrimination, however, it is worth noting that it was only through Lowri’s persistence that a 1998 bylaw was reintroduced by Cottrell Park to allow female members the right to play at any time on either of Cottrell Park’s two golf courses in a competition environment. Tee time slots on one of the courses had previously been reserved for male members on Saturday mornings for their competition round.
In the interim, by speaking publicly to help defend women’s rights at Cottrell Park, and ultimately for the benefit of other women who might find themselves in a similar situation at golf clubs across the country, it does seem unfair that Lowri still has a week to serve under her penalty of a month’s suspension, or the fact that she was suspended in the first place.
So what next? It appears that Cottrell Park and Lowri Roberts have agreed to disagree.
Lowri has formally responded saying that she strongly disagrees with the allegations and with the decision. However, she will not be appealing.
"The entire process is flawed due to lack of independence,” she said.
"There is a clear conflict of interest when the person appointed to decide whether I am guilty or not is in fact an employee of the accuser (the Managing Director of the company). We could not even agree on the accuracy of the transcript of the hearing. The remit of the hearing was to consider whether I had made disingenuous or injurious comments, not whether the club had discriminated against me.”
Lowri now wants to draw a line under the episode, and as far as she’s concerned, she has achieved what she fought for and has raised awareness of an issue that isn’t isolated to Cottrell Park.
For both Cottrell Park and Lowri Roberts, surely this unpleasant situation could have been avoided with the matter being resolved sooner and without the necessity to ban Lowri from the course.
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