July 02, 2008

The way ahead for the Royal Club

I drove home from the Royal Club AGM last month much depressed, and trying to work out where had it all gone wrong. Three years ago, curling's governing body in Scotland underwent a major re-organisation. At the Park Hotel in Kilmarnock on June 18, 2005, 180 club representatives voted in favour of the changes, with only five voting against. A Board of Directors was to be elected, on the basis of skills and knowledge they possessed, rather than where they came from. The mood at Kilmarnock was very positive.

Three years on, there are major rifts within the membership, and the mood is anything but positive. What has brought the problems to the surface has been the Board's determination to tackle how members should be represented in decision making processes. A Representative Review Working Group has been considering the problem. Under the Board (currently made up of three men and three women, plus the CEO and the Royal Club President) there are two main committees. The Area Standing Committee, with its members, both men and women, drawn from Areas which derive from the traditional division of clubs into Provinces, and the Ladies' Standing Committee which is made up of representatives of ladies' clubs, based around ice rinks.

At Cumbernauld last month there was much discussion about the consultations of the Representative Review Working Group. The concept that there should be just one Royal Club Standing Committee, doing away with the current Ladies' Committee, makes sense to many.

But not to all. Battle lines have been drawn. Ladies' Branch President Sheila Miller spoke passionately, referring to how the Ladies' Branch President used to be a member of the old RCCC Executive. She said, "We need to retain both standing committees and promote more interaction." She continued, "The vast majority of our members are determined that Ladies' Branch will survive. I see no advantage in having a single Royal Club Standing Committee to replace the two existing Standing Committees. In my view the status quo should remain."

And are members of the Area Standing Committee happy? Not a bit of it. Many see that their functions have been taken over by the Board, and they have been made redundant! They see that the Board should look after the business of curling, and the Area Standing Committee should run the sport in the country.

After the AGM, the new Board met: Lockhart Steele, Colin Grahamslaw (CEO), Bob Tait, Anne Malcolm, Irene Hird, Jeanette Johnston, Willie Nicolland Matt Murdoch (President), with Vice-president Bill Marshall in attendance. Bob Tait was elected as the Chairman. The minutes of that meeting, just published (here), give just a hint of what lies ahead.

The Board confirmed it was their intention to hold more joint meetings of the Board with the Area Standing Committee AND the Ladies Standing Committee. A meeting in October has been suggested to look at the outcomes from the Representative Review Working Group. Consultation on that continues until the end of August.

The Board agreed to trial Question and Answer sessions at four ice rinks across the country. These will give club curlers the opportunity to quiz Directors. Will these be a useful communication exercise, or will the sessions foster confrontation? I wonder.

The next meeting of the Board will be on July 23 to discuss a report from the Facilities Sub Group. A decision on the location of the preferred bidder for the National Curling Academy may be made then.

Let's hope we hear what's going to happen about the Vernon investigation then too!

L-R: Bill Marshall, Willie Nicoll, Lockhart Steele, Anne Malcolm, Bob Tait, Irene Hird, Colin Grahamslaw, Jeanette Johnston, Matt Murdoch. Pic by Bob.

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