Moves are afoot at grass-roots level to help and support Scottish Golf as the beleaguered governing body faces job losses in the wake of a proposal to raise additional funds through an affiliation fee paid by club members being rejected.
It has emerged that a call made by the women’s County associations around the country for a a special general meeting to be held in order to show support for Scottish Golf’s bid to come up with a strategy to tackle declining club membership is gaining significant backing from other stakeholders.
“I believe there is growing support for a special general meeting and that is based on more than just speculation,” said president Paul Gibson at the Lothians Golf Association annual general meeting at Liberton Golf Club. “I believe that 14 out of the 15 women’s County associations are on side for doing something and there appears to be a growing number of men’s Area associations and indeed clubs within the Lothians also on board for that to be a special general meeting.”
That only needs 5 per cent of Scottish Golf’s stakeholders to officially back such a proposal and the first Lothians club delegate to offer an opinion on the bid to raise the affiliation fee by £3.75 to £15 being rejected blasted that decision.
“I thought it was a small price to pay not to embarrass the home of golf and help develop the game in Scotland,” said Ratho Park’s Matt Whiteford. “Not to give Scottish Golf support in its infancy (the amalgamated body was set up in October 2016) to take the game forward is a big mistake.
“We have to give them that opportunity. If not, they will be running about headless chickens as staff cuts are made. It will be back to two or three people in a backroom. That will be stepping back 20 years and Scottish Golf will diminish in everyone’s eyes, so I am keen to see us do something by putting options on the table.”
Concurring, Craigmillar Park’s John Hall said: “I thought the decision was incredibly selfish as this is about golf in 40 or 50 years’ time. It is not about your pint next week. But I have three words for Scottish Golf – communication, communication, communication. That’s the fundamental issue. They have got to communicate to people at the grass roots and explain what they are trying to do.”
Representing Kingsknowe, Willie Stephen claimed that club members are “split” on an issue that has left Scottish Golf facing cuts of up to £450,000 over the next 18 months from a budget that has already been slashed by £700,000 due to sportscotland funding having been drastically cut. “A lot of members don’t see the purpose of increasing the affiliation fee as they don’t get any benefit while there are others who are keen to help develop and push golf,” he added.
Denys Flaherty, a former Lothians president, said it had been a “rocky start” for Scottish Golf as a unified body due to first Hamish Grey then Blane Dodds quitting as chief executive. “In two years, nothing appears to have been done to move Scottish Golf forward and a strategy on the table at the end of last year (it included the affiliation fee going up to £24) was overwhelmingly rejected,” he remarked. “We need things to be clearly defined, including the role of the Areas and Counties.”
According to Gibson, the issue has even left the Lothians Golf Association divided and he received support from delegates to get a straight “yes” or “no” from clubs about backing the call for a special general meeting. “The Lothians executive committee is very much split,” he said. “I am for doing something and I think it’s better to be ‘on the inside’. But we have to be guided by what our clubs want. We have to try to move this forward in some meaningful way and I think the best way to do that is on a geographical basis with everyone working together.”