ABAC has received from a non member club (“Club A”) minutes which were prepared after the recent EA Affiliation Fees road show held for Southern clubs. In the absense of full minutes from EA we publish this account so that all clubs may get a better understanding of what went on.
Minutes of an EA meeting held at Savoy Place, London on the 14th Dec 2012
On Friday 14 Dec England Athletics held the third of three consultations on the topic of increased affiliation subscription fees. Representing EA were Peter King (Chairman), Chris Jones (Acting CEO), Graham Jessop (Chair of EA South East), Wendy Sly (Board Member and GB Cross-Country Team Manager) and Kevan Taylor (Finance Director). Around 150 club representatives were present.
Peter King made a short introduction explaining that EA existed to promote athletics at grass roots level and to provide governance but that the Clubs themselves “owned” athletics and it was the responsibility of EA to listen and provide the services which Clubs actually wanted and needed. Given that, he was approaching the consultations with an open mind and was focused on trying to adapt EA’s proposals to incorporate our views and criticisms.
Chris Jones began with an apology. He stated that EA had made a mistake in the way it had announced the rise in affiliation fees. They had not communicated the reason for it clearly, nor had the consulted members. This consultation was part of a larger attempt to address this. The original proposals could be considered cancelled. On 17 Dec EA would receive confirmation of next year’s funding allocation from Sport England, following this Chris himself would shape the affiliation proposals and circulate these to clubs. He then gave a short presentation to explain EA’s funding structure and why the board had decided on the need for an increase in affiliation fees. EA’s income came from three streams: Sport England; event and commercial income; and affiliation fees. Total income last year had been £8.8m, the bulk of which had been reinvested in EA projects. SE had already told EA ahead of this year’s funding round that they would be reducing their contribution by approximately 20%. EA wished to keep its income amount at 2012 levels and increase it by inflation across the next 4 years. For this reason they had decided to increase the income from affiliation fees from 8% of their total income to 22%.
Club A Comment: Whilst unstated, the key point was that there would be no new services in return for the increase in affiliation fees. EA are simply trying to cover a funding gap.
Kevan Taylor made a short presentation of accounts, which can be found on the EA website, and then the meeting was opened to the floor for questioning. Questions were largely hostile and often emotive and it was clear that the EA board had underestimated the depth of feeling amongst the Clubs. It was also clear that they had come underprepared. Their inability to answer most of the questions only resulted in rousing the hostility even further. Whilst the EA board had assumed the focus would only be on the rise in affiliation fees, they had not foreseen the possibility that clubs might question their reason for existing altogether. Several clubs made a very strong point about grass roots Athletics dying on its feet and that it was not clear exactly what EA are doing to prevent this. A number of people made the point that people object to having to pay to run especially as most don’t do championship events and feel affronted having to pay anything to the EA at all. The main themes of questioning were:
- Why should the EA exist given the relative abundance of sport QUANGOs? Why could their function not be taken over by UKA?
- Why should clubs be designated to collect fees? Why don’t EA charge athletes directly?
- Why the large number of staff in EA (72 in total)?
- What other funding options had been pursued?
- What services did EA provide to the average member of each of the clubs present?
- Why was EA decision making so opaque?
- Why did the EA assume it should keep its income levels consistent when all other public bodies had had to endure cuts over the past 2/3 years?
- Why are coaching courses so few and so expensive? Why are there no further development courses for coaches to progress?
Several times the board were asked what services the EA would no longer be able to provide if they did not impose an increase in affiliation fees. Chris Jones was unable to answer saying that planning could not be done until Sport England had given EA its 2013 allocation, but that undoubtedly there would have to be cuts.
On several occasions members of the floor proposed votes, which Peter King tried and ultimately failed to block. These included: should the EA be abolished ? (majority in favour); no confidence in the EA (majority in favour); no clear reason for the fees increase (majority in favour), should clubs refuse to collect the EA fees? (majority in favour). Peter King did confirm that EA would not be going ahead with the upper limit of £20 fee for track and field members.
Club A Comment: The EA board had prepared for the wrong question and did not expect to have to justify their existence. There was a great deal of woolliness about much of their service provision. An example: welfare cost 80k in 2012 but they could not explain exactly what that was. They also chaired the meeting poorly, which meant that at times it descended into unpleasant targeting of some of the board members. There is no doubt that the board will be reconsidering their fee proposal, but also that some clubs will be leaving the EA anyway.