She’s spent 28 years of her life playing squash, representing her country at every level, and competing in three
Commonwealth Games – including Glasgow 2014 where, watched by family and friends, she called an end to a long career.
But for much of that time Frania Gillen-Buchert has either been planning for a career in – or has actually been working in – the events industry. After quitting sport she took up a role at Event Scotland earlier this year, where she quickly became a linchpin in the team that has just secured the Solheim Cup for Scotland.
In a fit of giggles she also tells me that she was one of the athletes who chose that tartan for the commie games opening ceremony uniform last year. Note: she didn’t choose the socks, and she also thinks some of the negative reaction was taken out of context, as the costume had to be visible from 300 metres, not be see through if it rained and was actually “brilliant” for the impact it created.
But we’re here to talk about golf and what impressed the Ladies European Tour so much about the Scottish Solheim bid, which culminated in Gleneagles being selected as the 2019 venue for the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup, which was hosted at the Perthshire course last year.
Among the benefits to having Frania working within the four-strong golfing team was that equality for women’s sport was chosen as one of the three themes running through the bid – along with innovation and experience. After getting herself on the athletes committee for Glasgow, Frania had an unparalleled contacts book in that regard, and was able to call on some of the most prominent sportswomen in the country.
“I just got my some of my
buddies from sport to help out,” she explains. And help out they did, with stars including triathlete Catriona Morrison taking part in a video message submitted in August as part of the formal bid to Solheim judges at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club in England, the headquarters of the Ladies European Tour.
On the innovation front, the
video screen itself was embedded within the box – designed by one of Event Scotland’s design agencies – and it could be played as the lid was lifted; it was done to the highest of production values, featuring aerial shots of Scotland’s landmarks, its lochs and mountains. It was a “beautiful” depiction of Scotland and a “first” for the directorate, Frania adds.
For experience, it was clear Gleneagles also ticked all of the boxes; although there were 12 courses that initially were invited by Event Scotland to tender, it was eventually whittled down to the famous course, and that decision was eventually vindicated, says Frania, when the Solheim Cup delegation conducted a site visit in September. “It was like Downton Abbey with all the staff in a line ready to greet them [the panel].”
“The cars were all tracked with satnav so they could tell when they were going to arrive. And as soon as they got out of the car, the piper knew it was them. It was fantastic; the staff were so professional.”
Event Scotland staff had even been allowed onto the tarmac at Edinburgh airport to meet the judges off their plane. Nothing was left to chance.
“It was a really great first impression,” she adds.
“I’m just grateful; really lucky I had the opportunity because I think that’s one of the biggest bids we’ll be doing for a while.”
With no way of determining what the rival Swedish bid would look like, it was very much up to Event Scotland to decide how to approach their own bid. It began in March when a team went down to the Buckinghamshire course with around 12 other nations; some may have been put off by the financial aspect, as a rights fee has to be paid to the organisers.
Event Scotland however pressed ahead with a formal bid and began the tender process with golf courses across Scotland to see which would be the most suitable, and fit the Solheim criteria, which meant being to demonstrate the capacity and resource to host such a competition.
Gleneagles was selected and work began on encouraging partners – including Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, the various golfing unions and even Edinburgh festivals – to support the bid. “The venue was the easy part compared to what followed,” says Frania. “But the outstanding partnership work was unbelievable; I don’t know if we’ll ever get that level of support again. I came from an environment where trying to get anyone to work with you was like pulling teeth. So this was very refreshing.”
And every detail of the submission was thought through; there were even 18 reasons on why Scotland should host the tournament in the application. All of the submissions from partners were also contained within a leather-bound book. The site visit was then arranged at Gleneagles in September – tea was even taken with the First Minister at the Scottish Parliament – and Scotland was duly announced the winner in a phone call to Event Scotland director Paul Bush on October 29.