Huge setback for Scottish Golf as it loses fee rise vote

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 12, 2018 12:19

The chair of Scottish Golf has expressed her “deep disappointment” after the membership narrowly voted against a proposal to increase the annual affiliation fee paid by members for the first time in five years.

Due to a funding crisis in golf in Scotland, the body that runs the amateur game wanted to increase the annual affiliation fee that all members of Scottish golf clubs pay it by £3.75 from £11.25 to £15. The £15 figure itself had been reduced from an initial proposal of £24 last year, following an outcry from members.

However, at the governing body’s annual general meeting in Edinburgh, members voted to reject the investment proposals with a majority of just 35. Scottish Golf will now reduce its spending accordingly.

Eleanor Cannon said: “We are deeply disappointed that we will be making more cuts at a time when we should be growing the game not just to make clubs more sustainable, but to hand the game over to our children and their children in a much better state than we found it after 10 to 15 years of decline.

“Following the optimism that emerged from the first ever ‘Future of Golf Conference’ in early December, we were hopeful of continuing our momentum so today is a real setback for all associated with the game in this country.

“The board will now look again at the budget and our focus will remain on the future of the game in Scotland and the legacy we leave future generations.

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“The culture of decision making in Scottish golf must change and there are tough choices ahead. This has been a bruising experience for many of us, but our resolve to strengthen golf in Scotland remains unwavering.”

With growing membership, revenue and participation outlined as key objectives to make positive change as part of the governing body’s revised strategy, Cannon and her board of directors were left disappointed when a vote taken to increase the annual affiliation fee per playing member was rejected by clubs, counties and areas at Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club.

Increasing the annual affiliation fee by £3.75 from £11.25 to £15 was outlined to help cover Scottish Golf’s shortfall in sportscotland investment of £350,000, with remaining income from the increase to be invested in front line services to help clubs become stronger and retain and grow their membership during these challenging times.

However, with a majority of over 50 percent required, the proposed affiliation fee increase was voted against by 270 votes to 235 (with 10 abstentions). Scottish Golf’s current voting structure is one vote per registered club. Each county and area is allocated 10 votes each thus carrying 44 per cent of the overall voting share.

It means Scottish Golf continues to face significant investment challenges going forward to run the organisation, support clubs and grow participation.

Overheads have already been reduced by £700,000 since amalgamation in October 2015 – overseeing a staff headcount reduction from 48 to 32 – with more overall cuts now expected.

According to Martin Dempster in The Scotsman, Eleanor Cannon has claimed that ‘sexism towards her was part of the reason a proposal to increase the affiliation fee paid by golf club members was rejected’.

“It’s not a personal issue. It’s around the fact that the chair of Scottish Golf is a female,” she claimed. “The only way to deal with it is to out it and confront it. I’d love to tell you some of the things, but I will sort this out inside the tent. Those who have behaved badly know they have behaved badly. I’ve talked to them individually about it.”

Asked if she was considering walking away on the back of this disappointment, Cannon insisted: “Absolutely not. The reason I am doing this job is because of the situation we find ourselves in. I’ve been there in the business world and you need to be resilient and strong. You need to keep believing. The people who brought this vote to where it is today are getting in the way of the people we want to reach in terms of the legacy we want to leave to the game. This is not about this generation or the generation after that. We made a commitment as a board that we would leave this game in better shape for our grandkids and their grandkids and we are determined to do it. The reason I am doing it is because I knew it would be tough.”

Former non-executive director Malcolm Robertson added: “The behaviour that is demanded by golfers when they are on a golf course should, in my view, apply around the governance of the game and it doesn’t. Some of the behaviour, particularly directed at the chair, has been disgraceful.

“You don’t see much of it played out at these meetings because there is a courage lacking. It might be embarrassing for Eleanor to hear it, but I’ve been ashamed by some of the behaviour, men in particular, which has been levelled at the chair. That culture has to change. There is a generational issue. Some of the behaviour has to be outed and exposed. ”

New chief executive Andrew McKinlay starts his position in May and Cannon added: “It is clear golf needs to adapt to the changing demands of modern lifestyles, embrace families and dramatically change cultures and behaviours to attract new audiences, particularly the female non-golfers and the younger generation.

“Under the leadership of Andrew, we will look to make this game better and stronger, but there is no doubt that today is a disappointment for the many clubs, counties and areas who supported the change, as well as Scottish Golf’s board and the staff.”

The AGM also saw the appointment of June McEwan as Scottish Golf’s new president, the first female to hold the role following amalgamation in 2015 and a reward for her work as a volunteer across various levels of the game. Malcolm Mitchell was appointed as senior vice president and David Fleming as junior vice president.

With Malcolm Robertson, Roz Cuschieri, Stephen Docherty and Neil MacDonald all coming off the board following the end of their terms, four new individuals were successfully nominated.

Brendan Dick, currently chair of BT Scotland and chair of The Scottish Council for Development and Industry, joins the board, along with Sean Duffy, the newly-appointed CEO of The Wise Group. Bill Woodley, a senior executive with Deutsche Bank who sits on the board and audit committee of the Tiger Woods Foundation, also takes up a board position, joined by Lorna Brown, a procurement and supplier management professional, most recently with Sainsbury’s and The Student Loans Company.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 12, 2018 12:19
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  1. David March 12, 13:17

    Scottish Golf would have lost even more money if the annual fees had increased – golfers throughout UK are already peed off with having to pay union fees for NIL return, other than paying for the heirachy running the unions itself

    Reply to this comment
    • Will March 12, 15:43

      Time for Scottish Golf Limited to actually start performing and genuinely support their clubs, rather than just seemingly taking the affiliation fees and doing nothing other than service their payroll.

      The debacle surrounds Blane Dodds’ tenure as CEO has shown SGL do not seem to know what they are doing, are how to move forwards with support for Scottish golf clubs and their members. Time for radical overhaul to take place within their hierarchy.

      Reply to this comment
  2. djm March 16, 11:59

    Can only add a big uptick to both David & Will.

    The Golf Unions are still not aware that their existence is not essential to the game of golf.

    Reply to this comment
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