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January 17, 2017

Aref Al Alwani Edwin Edwards Thomas Guss Giles Morgan Patrick Pierce Ramez Youssef

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Warm welcome to the sponsors press conference for the 2017 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Delighted to welcome the General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, please welcome His Excellency, Aref Al Awani.

HIS EXCELLENCY AREF AL AWANI: Thank you. First of all, we have to welcome all our partners and in advance, thank you for putting this show, it's not only a competition, but it's one of the best shows in the region in the last ten years and in the last two years, it's one of the best events, which is one achievement which will not be done without the partners which you see on this table.

So thank you, Giles Morgan for your sponsorship from HSBC. Ramez Youssef, head of marketing Al Fahim. Thomas Guss, general manager of Shangri-La Abu Dhabi. Our partners always, the best airline, Etihad. Edwin Edwards, manager of Abu Dhabi Golf Club, welcome to our tournament.

I wish all the luck for our players to have the best fans as always, for the fans to enjoy the competition, which is supposed to be there between the best players in the golf in the world, and we hope after on Sunday evening, everybody be happy about the experience over these four days. Thank you for all the partners, thank you for all the sponsors. If not for the sponsors, and the partners we have supporting us; and I cannot mention how many there are, but for sure, IMG will send our regards and our thanks for all of them. We are hoping that this tournament as always, will satisfy your ambitions in the future.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Thank you. And next, Ramez Youssef, head of marketing and communications with the Al Fahim group to say a few words.

RAMEZ YOUSSEF: Good afternoon, Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, and our guests, I'd like to thank Abu Dhabi Sports Council for giving us this opportunity to come and speak on behalf of IMG and the Al Fahim Group.

Again, this year, I won't take much of your time, I just want to elaborate about the drive for charity which we have seen a glimpse of from last year. Mercedes is proud to be the automotive sponsor for the Abu Dhabi Sports Council for the second year in a row. It's a world-class event that puts the global spotlight back on this great city that we live in and country.

As a family with a long heritage, we are committed to giving back to society and encouraging sports enthusiasts to emerge. Last year we embarked on this initiative which drew some attention from the media, the Drive For Charity. With 2017 being named as the Year of Giving, we see this as the perfect opportunity to announce we would be bringing it back. But this time, the difference is the Sports Council signed on from last year, hoping to double these initiatives and get more in return. We are hoping to increase the amount to charity.

The amount of money as you see will depend on how the performance of the Mercedes-Benz sponsored players does over the four days, defending champion Rickie Fowler and Marcel Siem of Germany, what they will drive over the course of the tournament, the more money will be donated to charity. Rickie and Marcel, if you're listening, please make the cut. There is no pressure on that (laughter).

Continuing with the theme of giving, we are giving the fans that come to the sponsorship village a chance to walk away with one of three Mercedes-Benz brands new cars for a year, basically until the event takes place next year. The course, they will have a chance to play a round with some mini-activation course that we created in the sponsorship village. We advise people to check it out and try their luck. It's really an honour for us, and I would like to thank you for your time on behalf of the group and Abu Dhabi Sports Council. We would like to urge the spectators to get behind Rickie and Marcel this weekend and support them in the Drive For Charity so that we can give back to society. Thank you very much and we wish everyone a successful event.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: It's so well-established now, the event, and you get so many wonderful stars, and we have a particularly great field this week yet again. But golf and HSBC is not just about the stars; it's about growing the game at all levels. Can you perhaps elaborate on that?

GILES MORGAN: Thank you very much, and thank you for having us here.

I think golf has got a wonderful opportunity, and we've talked about this a lot in the media to try to grow the game. We had the Olympic Games last year, and this is a sport that has the opportunity to evolve.

I think it's a tournament such as Abu Dhabi which provides a really good showcase for the sport. But in order to be attractive, we have to attract people, and that's both on television to watch around the world but also coming to wonderful events like this.

What we've been trying to do as a major sponsor of golf around the world is to get youngsters and to get new audiences involved in the game of golf, whilst preserving traditions of the sport which are held very dear.

So from the wonderful village that we have here, which is about getting families to come in and have a go at playing golf and playing sport and trying to get involved, is really important. We sponsor with Abu Dhabi, getting youngsters in Abu Dhabi to play as we do in the U.K., and as we do in China, and as we do in Singapore to support our tournaments, because the sport has an opportunity to grow.

But in order to grow, it needs to reach out to new audiences, which is why for those of who you have been around the course already, we brought a DJ down. We're trying to put music on the range and we're trying to lighten the game a bit and make it more attractive to more people. We won't get it all right, but we are trying to just push the boundaries a bit. And certainly talking to the players, they seem to be very appreciative of just perhaps dropping the formality a bit.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Is that really what's behind this initiative with the music and the growing of the village, just to give back more to those who will be in attendance, to make it more fun for everyone?

GILES MORGAN: We commissioned a report a few years ago about a 20/20 vision for the game of golf, and the Olympics an important catalyst for the growth of the game, and we talked about the need for the game to speed up. And we talked about new audiences, and about growth in new markets, such as the UAE and Asia, to help grow the game. Those are the sort of initiatives we try and do through publicity as much as anything just to draw attention to the challenges that golf faces are also the opportunities and I think that's very exciting for the sport.

Yeah, having fun on the range is quite a serious -- it may look like a bit of fun, but actually it's quite serious. We're trying to attract new audiences. And having music on the range, and God knows, if it makes my game straighter, it has to be good news.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: While HSBC is a global bank, and you pride yourself in local activity. Can you elaborate on that?

GILES MORGAN: Yeah, we do particularly in golf, and both in the U.K. and here in the UAE and Singapore and China, we run HSBC Golf Hour, which is basically giving youngsters free golf, and opportunity to have a go. And I think that's something that's a responsibility that probably all of the sponsors here feel that if you're lucky enough to be a sponsor of a sport, you also have a duty of care to give back and to encourage the future to develop.

And working with the Sports Council here, it's been fantastic, because what we're trying to do is to get more people -- you have the most wonderful golf facilities in the world here in Abu Dhabi, and they should be used by the future generations. If we can in years to come present the wonderful Falcon Trophy to a local, it would be the icing on the cake.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Thank you very much.

The Shangri-La, very much involved in sponsorship with this magnificent championship, we'd like to ask Thomas Guss, the general manager of the Shangri-La, to say a few words.

THOMAS GUSS: Good afternoon. We are very honoured and proud to be affiliated with this amazing event. It is not just for us a sport event. It's bringing people together with different culture with different backgrounds. It's a fun event.

Inside the hotel, we are loving serving them. It's a different vibe in the hotel. And our social responsibility is to support Abu Dhabi Sports Council and vision of Abu Dhabi and we are very proud to be here today. Thank you very much.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Vice president of sponsorship at Etihad Airways is Patrick Pierce. Perhaps a few words as well, Patrick.

PATRICK PIERCE: Yes, Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, that you for the opportunity. Those of you visiting Abu Dhabi for the first time a very warm welcome, and hopefully if you flew it with us, you were treated well in flight.

We've been a partner with the tournament since 2006, so really hard to believe. It's been 11 years already, but just last year, we cemented an even longer-term partnership with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council with IMG, as well. So we will be the Official Airline Partner through 2020.

As the Official Airline, what does that entail? First of all, we really enjoy supporting, much like what Thomas said about the hotel, the vibe, right. We've got golfers, we've got caddies, we've got members of media that are travelling with us from all corners of the world. It's our role to transport people and our role to transport equipment, golf bags, you name it, also the media, as well.

So it's not just in the air; it's also on the ground, so Abu Dhabi, we provide ground support services through Hala. But it is fun, right. And attracting new audiences, we have a lot of pilots and cabin crew and employees that play the game. I myself am a former caddie, so I enjoy it. But how do we attract the attention of other members of the community.

So we have Ladies Day on Friday which is a lot of fun, so I think women get free admission. We have a best-dressed contest; so it's about style, it's about fashion. And the reward, the best-dressed females in the gallery win a round-trip ticket to New York to attend New York Fashion Week. We sponsor the shows twice a year. So that's a really, really neat promotion.

On the 18th hole, you'll have our business class product overlooking the 18th hole. So if you're walking around and tired at the end of the say, sit back in a flatbed and have a glass of champagne and watch the action from the 18th.

Lastly we have the Million Mile Promotion. So for any golfers this week that score a hole-in-one, they will earn 1 million from Etihad Guest. And what is a million miles? You can fly to and from Los Angeles in first class three or four times. Get your golf bag will probably be flying for free for the rest of your career.

That's really a lot about creating engagement, but last and certainly not least it's about promoting Abu Dhabi as a destination. There are tremendous golf courses here. The sun shines practically every day of the year. It's about showing those on the broadcast that this is a wonderful place for sport, for community.

So in all three phases, the operations of the activation and of the community, it's truly our pleasure to work with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and with IMG. So thank you very much.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Last but not least from the host club, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the general manager, Mr. Edwin Edwards.

EDWIN EDWARDS: We're obviously very proud on behalf of Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Troon Goof and TDIC to once again be the host venue for this pretty special event. I think it's recognised as one of the flagship events on The European Tour.

I'd also like to carry on with what Giles said. We have an amazing opportunity to show the world what an incredible golf club we have but also what an incredible destination Abu Dhabi is, and then over and beyond that, the legacy programme that we are leaving behind.

So with the HSBC Future Falcons, what can we do to inspire the youngsters with the showcase, we now have the opportunity to show the world and the UAE in general. So the whole team here is very excited.

I've been here a grand total of four weeks and I'd love to take credit for the amazing condition of the golf course, but really it's some extremely hard work from the teams over the last few months. We are greatly looking forward to the event. Thank you.

Q. Giles, can I ask you something about the Future Falcons which started about year ago with Abu Dhabi Sports Council. You had great success with such a programme in China and we are guys like Li and quite a few others who have done really well. What's the sense that you have got after one year? Have you been able to oversee what has happened, and what is the sense that you are getting with the programme over here in Abu Dhabi?
GILES MORGAN: I think one year, it's still quite early. Like the Junior Programme in China, probably takes three or four years to take hold. So we mustn't be looking too quickly for future champions. But you have to start somewhere. And what I'm very encouraged about is the support there is within the region to help, seeing that golf is an important asset for the UAE as a sport; that there's great support and there's great interest and enthusiasm from youngsters.

And with great coaching, I think maybe in five to ten years, which is really how long the HSBC Junior Golf Programme in China took, to start unveiling the sort of Li Haotong and that kind of level, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. And we are really pleased to be doing it because that legacy that people always talk about is really important, because I think then you start showcasing locals playing at a top level. So once the youngsters start coming through -- it's too late for me.

HIS EXCELLENCY AREF AL AWANI: During the last years, participating in the game from a lot of, we say Emiratis, our residents, for sure, having a lot of golf courses after the good history of Abu Dhabi Golf Club, like Yas Links and Saadiyat who have been always the best golf courses in the region, it's some of the benefits which have been gained by having Abu Dhabi Championship and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

So this is one of the things which is good for us, having the programme with HSBC to promote the game again with the young generation, not only with all the amateurs who are coming into the game, it's very important, I think during the next years, we are monitoring the progress of those youngsters who are playing right now.

I think during the next days, some of you can sit with our technical department to see what's their achievements, and they can explain more technical for me. But we are aiming with this programme, with the help of HSBC, will present new players. It's not important for us to be only Emirati players or not. We need to present new residents, a new generation, who might be coming from this tournament to the future of golf.

One thing also, I want to just mention during Ramez's speech, that, yes, this year has been declared by the President Sheikh Khalifa, President of UAE, it is the Year of Giving. One of the main things is a lot of the sponsors are participating in giving a lot of things to the fans, giving a lot of thins to the community.

For sure, our role with them and the initiative which they have already launched last year, is one of the appreciated things which we want to keep doing, and yes, we are doubling that, the odds of the amount, which will be collected. But it's not how much we are going to collect, because the main thing that we will always put something in our tournaments, in our events in Abu Dhabi, which can be having a return to the charities or to be aligned with the dedication of 2017 as the Year of Giving.

We are glad that the first sport tournament is our tournament, so everybody, all the sponsors, will be happy and proud that they are participating in something related to the Year of Giving, and for sure we thank our partners for that. Our thanks to Ramez, Edwin, Giles, Patrick and Thomas.

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