Scottish Golf reports £250,000 downturn in finances due to Covid-19

A combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and rolling out a digital strategy led to Scottish Golf suffering a near-£250,000 slip in finances in 2020, it has emerged.

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Martin Gilbert putts on the 8th hole during Day three of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links on September 28, 2019 in St Andrews, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

The governing body’s accounts for the year ended 30 September 2020 show a loss of £18,350 compared to a surplus of £226,382 in 2019.

The downturn has been attributed to a “significant reduction” in membership income as a result of a 25 per cent affiliation fee rebate offered to all clubs as they were hit by the initial coronavirus lockdown.

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That represented a hit of just under £600,000 for Scottish Golf as subscription revenue dropped from just over £2.4 million in 2019 to around £1.8 million.

At the same time, though, the accounts show the cost involved in rolling out a new Scottish Golf App and a Venue Management System (VMS) for member clubs.

Development costs in 2020 rose to £1.3 million from just over £480,000 the previous year, with the rise in income from that not yet matching the expenditure.

The total spent on wages and salaries also increased, rising from £1.05 million to £1.22 million, according to the accounts, which have been published ahead of next month’s annual general meeting.

“Against a backdrop of unforeseen circumstances of Covid-19 during the second half of the year, the directors believe this to be an excellent result,” said a directors’ report. “The pandemic and its resulting effect on the operations of the company were the major reasons for the loss.

“Impacts included a significant reduction in membership income as a result of a 25 per cent (£580,145) rebate offered to all clubs, and the cancellation of events and performance programmes due to travel and large gathering restrictions.

“During the year, the R&A provided a funding package of £685,000 to Scottish Golf to support the challenges facing golf in Scotland during the pandemic. This funding was fully dispersed to clubs following a robust application process.

“Significant progress was made in the delivery of digital channels, including the rollout of the Venue Management System (VMS) and increased use of digital channels, including Zoom, Webinars, HIVE learning and others to deliver services and support to clubs.

“In making better use of technology over the last year and in successfully developing new ways of engagement with the membership, we have identified efficiencies that will continue to reduce operating costs as we head into 2021.”

Former Aberdeen Standard Investments chairman Martin Gilbert is set to take over from Eleanor Cannon as the governing body’s new chair at the virtual meeting on 7 March.

Gilbert, a huge supporter of the Scottish game at all levels during his time with Aberdeen Asset Management then ASI, has been lined up for the role as Cannon steps down as a six-year term.

Speaking in November, Gilbert said: “Golf has been a lifelong passion of mine and I’m hugely excited to be taking up this role.

“I commend Eleanor and her team for their sterling leadership of the new, amalgamated body since its inception in 2015.

“The strategic direction that has been adopted by Scottish Golf is bold and exciting. I am very much looking forward to progressing this strategy and working closely with the board, the team and the membership in continuing to develop the game at all levels in Scotland.”

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