Tod stripped of golf title

Todmorden GC's David Stafford
Todmorden GC's David Stafford

Todmorden Golf Club’s scratch team has been stripped of its Halifax-Huddersfield Union Division Three title.

A statement on the Union website said the decision had been taken “due to irregularities” over Todmorden’s opening match of the season at home to Elland on Friday, May 23.

The title will be not awarded this season and third-placed Outlane are promoted alongside runners-up Hebden Bridge.

Elland, who finished next to bottom and were due to be relegated, will not be allowed to come back up next year.

Todmorden are frustrated and angry about the decision, team member Dave Stafford saying his club had been open and honest about the events at Rive Rocks when Elland had visited on a wet evening.

He said that the Union hadn’t explained its decision, which came after it had called off a planned meeting between the parties.

Stafford also accused the Union of a witch hunt against Frank Greaves, Tod’s non-playing captain against Elland, who had made clear his disappointment about being overlooked for the role of Union team manager at the start of the season.

However, Union secretary John Greaves is adamant that the sides arranged the result and that the rules clearly stated that matches had to be completed.

Greaves said it had been “a grim night” at Tod for the opening match and although the four home players thought the course was playable for the head-to-head contests, Elland were reluctant.

“They didn’t want to play and offered us a half,” said Stafford.

He said Elland’s opening player Ryan Greenwood had hit his opening drive out of bounds and offered to shake hands with opponent Mark Birkett.

Birkett had enquired if his opponent was giving him the hole and Greenwood had said he was conceding the match.

Stafford said Elland’s second player Reece Wilby had made the same offer to him after playing his opening shot.

“We assumed Elland would do the same for Chris Thornsby and Michael Murray’s matches but instead the players agreed to halve their contests,” said Stafford.

Stafford says he rung Greaves, who was on his way to the course, to tell him what had happened and that Greaves had told him that players couldn’t agree to a half without a ball being hit.

“We rung Elland to ask them to come back and play the other two matches or re-arrange the fixture but they said ‘that’s it - 6-2’.”

Tod then tried to contact league secretary Bryan Webb, the Union’s president elect, but could only reach his voice mail.

“He came back to us the following Monday or Tuesday and we asked him what we should to do because we didn’t want to put the score in. He said it would be okay - 6-2,” said Stafford.

Ten weeks later, having beaten Longley Park 8-0 in their last match to finish top, a letter from the Union arrived at the Todmorden club by recorded delivery.

It said Todmorden had been stripped of the title for match fixing on the first match of the season, according to Stafford.

Stafford rang Union secretary John Lawrence to ask if they had a right of appeal and was told they had seven days to do so but that if the result went against them the penalties could be increased to include the players.

Stafford spoke to Union president Dave Pullen at an inter-union match at West End the following day, when Birkett was playing for Halifax-Huddersfield.

Stafford said Pullen had told him there had been a previous instance of match fixing a few years earlier when two teams had agreed a 4-4 draw without leaving the clubhouse.

“I assured him that was not the case at all and we had teed off,” said Stafford.

Tod claim a meeting was arranged between the parties for the following Thursday but they had received a phone call on Wednesday to say no meeting would take place, the decision stood and the matter was closed.

“We had no chance to explain what had happened,” said Stafford.

Todmorden tried to enlist the help of the Royal and Ancient, golf’s governing body based at St Andrews.

They were told that the R & A had no jurisdiction over the Union but could request information about the matter.

Stafford said the Halifax-Huddersfield Union had initially agreed to provide details but had changed its mind after Todmorden had requested a copy of the details.

“They’ve ridden roughshod over us,” said Stafford. “Why not send the documents to the R & A? It’s farcical.

“There seems to be nowhere to go. We feel it has been a witchhunt for Frank. It stinks - everyone I’ve spoken to can’t understand it.

“We didn’t try to put the result in. Frank asked and was told what to do.

“They are trying to make out we are cheats but we have been totally open about what has happened.”

However, Lawrence has no doubt that the executive’s decision is the right one.

He said: “I am convinced the teams connived the result.

“All the matches must be played over the stipulated number of holes.

“You have got to play until you reach a result - you can’t concede, otherwise you would get all sorts of results affecting league titles.”

Lawrence said the rules stated that matches must be played to a conclusion. “If they have broken the rules the R & A do not want to know,” he said.

Lawrence said the Union had written evidence from Elland captain Nigel King and secretary Paul Green.

“Elland consider the verdict very fair and have accepted the decision and apologised,” he said.

He also launched a broadside against Tod saying they had poached Birkett and Greaves from other clubs this season and had been desperate to win the title.