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Muirfield golf club overturns men-only policy – BBC News

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Image caption Muirfield captain Henry Fairweather said he looked forward to welcoming female members

Muirfield golf club has voted to admit women as members for the first time in its history.

Members at the privately-owned club voted 80.2% in favour of updating their membership policy.

It followed a decision by golf’s ruling body, the R&A, to remove Muirfield as a host venue for the Open Championship after it failed to change in 2016.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the club would now be reinstated as an Open venue.

“It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world’s great sporting events that women can become members at all our host clubs.

“Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we very much look forward to taking the championship there in future,” he said.

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns and runs Muirfield, had recommended its members update their rules.

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Image caption Muirfield last hosted the Open in 2013 and has staged the event 16 times in its history

It followed consternation from many quarters at the result of the 2016 vote that failed to back female members.

At the time, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for the decision “simply indefensible”.

Following the latest vote, she tweeted: “Well done, Muirfield – decision to admit women members emphatic & the right one. Look forward to seeing you host the Open again in future.”

UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch added her voice to those congratulating the club, but added: “The decision has been a long time coming and it was right that the R&A made clear to Muirfield that the Open Championship would only be hosted at clubs that allow women members.

“Golf has the potential to attract a more diverse audience to the game and this decision sends out an important message.

“It is vital that clubs and sports organisations play their part in promoting equality.”

Muirfield – which was founded in 1744 – had required two-thirds of its eligible voters to back admitting women.

The postal ballot of members returned 498 votes in favour of change, with 123 votes (19.8%) against.

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Image caption Women were previously only welcome at the course and clubhouse as guests and visitors

A total of 621 votes were counted, a 92.7% turnout.

Club captain Henry Fairweather welcomed the result: “This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members.

“We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club.”

Muirfield has staged the Open 16 times and last hosted the event in 2013.

While the change to admit women members takes affect immediately, the club admits it is likely to be at least two years before the first woman successfully negotiates its lengthy joining process.

Despite previously not being able to become members of Muirfield, women had been able to play on the links course and visit the clubhouse as guests and visitors.

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