Stephen Docherty, who has just finished a stint as a non-executive director, having worked closely with the likes of Stephen Gallacher, Andrew Coltart and Catriona Matthew on the performance front, spoke out after Saturday’s annual general meeting at Dalmahoy.
That delivered a massive kick in the teeth to Eleanor Cannon, the Scottish Golf chair, and her fellow board directors as a proposal to raise the affiliation fee paid by club members by £3.75 to £15 was rejected by stakeholders who voted t 235 (46 per cent) in favour and 270 (53 per cent) against, with ten abstentions.
Facing cuts of up to £450,000 over the next 18 months as a consequence, Cannon admitted that jobs will be lost at an organisation that has already had to make savings worth around £700,000 due to sportscotland funding being slashed.
“I was the only one left from the board during the amalgamation process [that led to the Scottish Golf Union and Scottish Ladies Golfing Association becoming a unified body in October 2015] and what you still have is a hangover from what was a soft option of getting that vote through,” claimed Docherty, a highly-respected figure in the Scottish game. “A lot of the things discussed at the agm go back to the amalgamation getting over the line.”
Docherty, Aberdeen Asset Management’s head of global equities, added: “I spent six and a half years of my life on boards and it feels as if we never actually talk about golf. We talk about everything else other than golf and, personally, I feel frustrated about the cost that could have gone back into the game over the past six and a half years or longer because amalgamation was on the table before then.”
Cannon described Saturday’s vote as “massively disappointing”, having felt confident in the build-up to the meeting that a decision to set the proposed increase at £15 instead of £24, which had been proposed initially, would get sufficient backing from Areas, Counties and clubs.
“It’s not about £15 or £24, as money doesn’t solve anything,” insisted Docherty. “It is about getting a message out to get a new generation into golf. As long as we have these things that are seen as being antiquated in what is seen as an antiquated sport and antiquated perception, you are not going to get there.
“There is this real chicken-and-egg situation of us needing to invest in technology to get the relationship with the golfers and that, of course, creates frustration with people who say they don’t know what they get for £11.25 let alone £15. That’s the problem. We don’t have that relationship. Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.”
Cannon claimed sexism towards her was part of the proposal being rejected, while Malcolm Robertson, another outgoing board member, said certain individuals, mainly men, involved in the process should be “ashamed at some of their behaviour” towards her.
“When you’re on a board, you’re not there to be popular,” said Docherty. “It’s to do what you think is right. Everyone has their frustrations. We stand up as board members in public. What I cannot stand is people doing things behind your back.
“The vote goes one way and that is how democracy works but it’s how the vote is arrived at and what dictates what that vote will be. I want to give back to a game that has given me so much. If we are spending so much time on other things rather than the game itself, can everyone say that? Are they giving back or taking out? That’s a big frustration.”
The response to Saturday’s vote has been mixed at grass-roots level, with some claiming that club members have “lost faith” in Scottish Golf while others have described the decision by stakeholders as “short-sighted”. The man left to try and pick up the pieces is Andrew McKinlay, who is due to take over as Scottish Golf’s new chief executive in May once he’s served his notice as the Scottish Football Association’s chief operating officer.
“He is so up for it and he will be brilliant,” insisted Cannon in trying to remain as positive as possible about what lies ahead. “The great thing about having a professional, talented board is that they are in it for the difficult times. They didn’t sign up for an easy ride. They will continue to step up to the plate.
“We have Andrew joining us, we have Iain Forsyth [who has worked for both Nick Faldo and Nike] on board, we have Ross Duncan out in a development role, which is the critical area between the clubs, Area and Counties. The team at Scottish Golf and I believe that we have a fantastic team that is motivated and inspired after what has happened over the last six months, even more so by the result today.”