To what extent should athletes fund the increasingly bureaucratic England Athletics?
ABAC Comments on plans to quadruple registration fees.
Where we are. England Athletics (EA) held its latest AGM on the 27th October 2012. Normally club representatives do not attend this event as clubs have no voting rights but may observe proceedings. This year was different. Several club representatives attended to articulate concerns relating to EA proposals to substantially increase affiliation fees. (See ABAC Fact File 18). EA stated that whereas at present affiliation fees account for 8% of income, from 2013 onwards this was planned to rise to 25% of income to replace an anticipated reduction in Sport England grant aid. It is reported from those attending that EA had not anticipated so much hostility to their plans. Clubs reported a lack of perceived benefits from EA and a feeling of disenfranchisement.
EA are now between a rock and a hard place. The planned fees increases are a corner stone of their present 4 year funding submission to Sport England. In an attempt to reconcile opposition EA agreed to meet representatives of clubs in the first week of November.
Clubs Reactions. It is less than 4 weeks since EA announced the increase in membership costs. Since then some clubs have held committee meetings while others still have to form an opinion. The responses by many clubs have been sent to ABAC with requests for advice on how to proceed. The strategies decided by clubs so far may be grouped into three categories:
- Engage and debate with EA to reduce the level of increases.
- Only collect the existing levels of fees (e.g. £5 per athlete) on EA’s behalf.
- Withdraw from collecting individual athlete fees completely.
England Athletics. The majority of athletic clubs struggle to run their own affairs. Few engage with the politics of the sport. Recent events however have brought home to many that they are in fact powerless to influence decisions that are formulated by people who do not have a true understanding of the state of the sport. Over the years ABAC has sought to put on record the true situation relating to Participation and Performance as well as analysing the use of tax payer and lottery grants by EA and UKA. All this has been recorded in the Fact File series which is available on the website at http://www.britishathleticsclubs.com/.
A key statistic relating to the present debate is that EA staff has increased by 67% in the 5 year period from 2007 to 2012 and now stands at 72 full time employees. During this period all aspects of the sport have declined. There are now so few athletes and officials that the future viability of many track and field leagues is in doubt.
EA , UKA and Sport England are not transparent and it has been impossible for ABAC to get the true numbers of licensed coaches and officials. Documents published by Sport England claim high numbers but the coach, officials and athlete numbers determined by ABAC through a thorough and independent statistical analysis, are a fraction of the levels claimed in official documents. There is a great disconnect between claimed and actual statistics relating to the sport of athletics.
ABAB Comments. There is a view that if the question of affiliation fees is resolved then the sport should carry on as before. We have re-iterated the problems associated with secrecy and lack of consultation to refute this approach. A radical slimming of UKA and England Athletics together with more accountability and transparency is a necessary prerequisite to putting clubs back at the heart of the sport.
Regarding the three different approaches proposed by clubs to the new fees we offer the following thoughts.
1. Negotiating the increases down is unlikely to succeed as EA are constrained by plans submitted to Sport England in March 2012.
2. Keeping club collection rates down to the existing £5 per athlete level will not meet the new requirements and may result in sanctions if only a few clubs follow this course of action. There may be good support for this option however. We learn that NW and NE clubs are being circulated with a petition stating “The following clubs reject the document put forward that sets fees for 2013-2017 on the grounds that a case has not been made and the proposals are unworkable. We will continue to collect and forward registration fees at £5 per active member which we deem reasonable.”
3. EA plan to set up a system in the future whereby athletes will be licensed directly by EA without clubs being involved (other than paying the £50 club affiliation fee). Such a system should have been put in place in time for the increases. It is unreasonable to ask overworked club secretaries and treasurers to collect and pass on to EA individual athlete fees.
ABAC advice. It is of course up to individual club committees to decide on their further course of action. ABAC believes that it is entirely reasonable for clubs to take the view that they are unable and unwilling to take part in the athlete affiliation fee collection process. That is the job of the 72 EA well paid employees. So, in order of preference we recommend.
1. Decline from collecting individuals’ fees from now on. OR,
2. Adopt the NW and NE proposals and continue to collect £5 per active member during the next 4 year cycle.
EA must face reality. It is time for EA to face reality. There is no way substantial funds will be generated from their present proposals. What they should be doing is looking at alternative scenarios including drastically reducing their present staff levels and reviewing their future operating targets.
ABAC will track club decisions. ABAC wishes to collate club responses and would appreciate receiving information about how your club intends to respond to EA on this matter. All individual club information will be kept confidential but total numbers in each category will be aggregated and published at an appropriate time.
We invite you to record your club’s decision using …. firstname.lastname@example.org
Final. 7th Nov 2012