Scottish Golf ask clubs to reveal sensitive financial information

Scottish Golf has launched a club finance health check to try and gauge the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the home of golf. Picture: Scottish GolfScottish Golf has launched a club finance health check to try and gauge the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the home of golf. Picture: Scottish Golf
Scottish Golf has launched a club finance health check to try and gauge the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the home of golf. Picture: Scottish Golf
Scottish Golf has been urged to reveal its strategy to help golf clubs under threat of closure due to the coronavirus crisis before being provided with sensitive financial information.

The Scotsman can reveal that the governing body has taken its first noticeable step in trying to provide some leadership in these troubled times by launching a club finance health check through a survey of its 550-odd member clubs.

However, eyebrows have been raised by club managers over some of the financial information they are being asked to provide to Scottish Golf.

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The survey contains 12 questions, which are aimed at gauging a "snapshot position" that the impact of COVID-19 is having on golf clubs up and down the country.

Clubs have been asked to reveal what percentage of their annual income is generated from membership money and what percentage of their revenue is generated from visitor income.

They have also been asked to provide information on how many members have renewed for 2020 and the percentage who use a "payment plan".

Scottish Golf is also trying to ascertain if clubs have applied for bank/finance loans and also if they have "cash reserves to fall back on".

In an email about the survey, the governing body told clubs: "Many of you have contacted us asking for direction, support or reassurance that Scottish Golf are reaching out through all appropriate channels to ensure that the impact being felt by the golfing community is being passed on to the government.

"This has and will continue to be something that we prioritise, however to strengthen our position and ongoing discussions we believe it would add significant value if we could use current financial information when making representation.

"We have prepared the following short set of questions that would greatly assist a better understanding of the financial impact being felt in our member clubs."

Other questions in the survey are about the Furlough Leave Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Support Fund, with clubs being asked to rate on a percentage basis what they estimate the financial impact of being closed is having on cashflow and profit and loss.

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One club manager told The Scotsman that there will be "a lot of nervousness" about clubs providing all the information being sought by Scottish Golf.

"If these were anonymous with a pledge to publish full results within 48 hours, I think they'd get good support," he said. "And managers/boards would find the output helpful if enough clubs participated.

"It's no secret that Scottish Golf Limited are trying to amass more data on club finances, they even asked all clubs to submit a copy of their annual financial reports a few months ago."

Another club manager said of the survey: "To be honest, I was not surprised at all when I received the email from Scottish Golf at the end of last week.

"It seems to me that their strategy is to collect as much information from clubs as possible instead of leading the nation as our governing body through these difficult and unprecedented times.

"Having discussed this with my executive committee, we will NOT be sharing any information with Scottish Golf until (if at all) they provide much greater detail of what their strategy is and what specifically they are going to use the information for.

“Our natural inclination is to support our governing body, especially given the current crisis, but the lack of an effective relationship between the SGL Board and the member clubs has resulted in such a deficit of trust that even filling in a relatively simple survey poses a dilemma for club committees.”

Scottish Golf has cancelled its entire 2020 fixture list and performance programme, a decision which is out of step with the other Home Unions. England Golf, for example, has just announced a revised schedule of events for later in the year.

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"I’ve no idea how many clubs will have paid their affiliation fee by now, but I’m guessing a good number have yet to do so," said another club manager of Scottish Golf's position. "Add into this their loss of revenue from running their championships and I reckon their finances are looking incredibly bleak.

"Therefore, they have got themselves into a catch 22. They desperately need to demonstrate value to their member clubs and areas but have had to furlough their staff, so don’t have the staff resources to do so.

"The survey is an attempt to gauge the health of the industry nationally, which is the right thing to do, but they have screwed it up because they never established a coherent comms strategy from the outset.

"What I have learned over the years, is that a club committee has to be as transparent as possible, unambiguous, consistent and articulate a well thought out purpose in order to create and retain the trust of the membership.

"This takes a long time to build up and it is eroded incredibly quickly. There is always a section of a membership who thrive on the ‘conspiracy theory’ and will spread rumour and mistruths at the slightest opportunity.

"Consequently, when clubs see the survey, instead of returning the information for the greater good of the industry, scepticism will prevent the survey being completed. Because two simple questions have not been answered: What is the information going to be used for and how will we benefit?

“The survey is well meaning and it is clear that the more we do collaboratively, the better, but I completely understand the nervousness that some club officials may have in passing over information without knowing exactly how it will be utilised. Perhaps a shorter, simpler survey would have yielded less antipathy.”

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