Fierce opposition to a proposed new strategy that included increasing an affiliation fee by more than 100 per cent is the reason behind Scottish Golf’s decision to scrap a vote on the controversial proposal, according to a leading official.
A special general meeting planned for 2 December in Stirling will now become a public debate on “the future direction for golf in Scotland” after the governing body extended its consultation period for the new strategy until next March.
The announcement coincided with Scottish Golf revealing it had dipped into its reserves to bridge an “immediate funding gap”, which was recently predicted to be £400,000 by the organisation’s outgoing chief executive, Blane Dodds.
Before announcing he is leaving to take up the same post at Tennis Scotland, Dodds outlined how he planned to raise £4 million over the next four years to offset a combination of sportscotland funding being slashed and sponsorship income decreasing.
His proposals included the affiliation fee paid by every club member increasing from £11.25 to £24, as well as the introduction of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for clubs and the implementation of an international licence for visitors.
Coming at a time when clubs are struggling to hold on to registered golfers, the move to ask members to dig deeper into their pockets has proved particularly contentious. Paul Gibson, president of the Lothians Golf Association, believes that has played a big part in the proposed vote being delayed until next March.
“Given the feedback both in person and via email, last night, the LGA executive committee voted unanimously on Wednesday against the SGL proposal to increase the per capita figure to £24,” he said.
“With the news now that the consultation period is being extended with a future date for voting to be arranged in 2018, it is clear that the feeling from clubs across the Lothians and Scotland has been taken seriously.
“We would encourage all our clubs to attend the SGL Open Forum on their future strategy on 2 December. I think it is now imperative that we all work together for the benefit of Scottish Golf.”
The decision to extend the consultation period follows a Scottish Golf board meeting earlier this week, and chair Eleanor Cannon and Karin Sharp, the corporate services director, meeting with sportscotland chiefs on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Board of Scottish Golf said: “In the interests of transparency, the December meeting will be a public event to bring some of the many private conversations that take place about the future of the game to a wider audience. It will be a conference-style event, with the opportunity for all stakeholders to attend.
“The Board is pleased that the proposed strategic plan has created wide-ranging discussion among all those who care passionately about our sport.
“Critical to this consultation period is listening to our members, which is why we believe the date already scheduled in the diary for the SGM should be utilised to provide a platform for debate.”
Stewart Harris, sportscotland’s chief executive, added: “Scottish Golf made a well-constructed presentation to sportscotland’s board on Wednesday, and we are supportive of the governing body’s direction of travel, which is inherently consistent with our governance framework.
“We remain committed to working closely with Scottish Golf and supporting them in reaching their objectives of increasing self-sustainability and modernising the sport.
“This autumn, we received an ambitious strategic plan from the governing body and we look forward to discussing it with Scottish Golf and their stakeholders at the public event on 2 December.”