The announcement at the weekend from Scottish Golf that clubs would be refunded 2019 - 2020 subscriptions has proved less attractive with the release of the details of the decision this week.
Unlike most of the Area Association in Scotland, who have already made the decision to refund between 50% and 100% of subscriptions to member clubs this year, the national body are proposing a return to clubs of just 25% of monies paid, and only if clubs apply on an individual basis for the refund.
With around 40% of Scottish Golf affiliation fees, which should have been paid by the end of March, still outstanding from member clubs this year, Scottish Golf are still looking for the remaining clubs to pay 75% of the full affiliation fees due this year. Though there has been an indication of flexible finaince options being available, it is not clear how Scottish Golf will proceed with clubs who do not, or are not able, to pay the fees due to the current COVID-19 crisis.
The full statement sent to member clubs this week is reproduced below:-
Dear Member Clubs,
In my first newsletter since taking the lead at Scottish Golf, I wanted to offer a more detailed outline to our membership on decisions that have been made recently, and the strategy and rationale behind them. Making key decisions in such uncertain times is a challenge all businesses are facing and at Scottish Golf we have a responsibility to protect the organisation and all the clubs we represent. In such difficult circumstances, it was important that action was taken to deliver tangible offerings to all golf clubs. If ever the “one size fits all” theory is not ideal, it is now, but to act swiftly this is the model that has to be used. From a financial planning perspective, there were many uncertainties where robust information was required to ensure that responsible business decisions were made.
Decisions recently made:
Events – Cancel all events for 2020
Rationale - The decision to cancel all events was not made lightly, or purely on the basis of when it would be possible to play a round of golf, or even run an event in the future. We had to take into consideration the full requirements to run a National Championship and the impact it would have, like:
When would courses be open for Championship play?
Would it be fair to close a member’s course for up to a week and deny that membership their facility when they have been starved of golf for many weeks/months at a key time of the year?
Would it be safe for our staff and volunteers to run events?
Where would the participants stay (would hotels, guest houses be open)? Once at the event, would clubhouses and restaurants be open for them to eat at?
When will normal playing conditions be achieved? We could be playing with upturned cups, no rakes for bunkers etc for some time post restrictions being lifted and we question whether National Championships should be contested under potentially restricted playing conditions?
We have been in touch with all of the 2020 Host Venue Clubs and given them first refusal to host the same event in the 2021 season. We continue to work through the logistics of this with the current and subsequent year venues but with staff furloughed both in clubs and at Scottish Golf, this process is going to take some time and we will provide further updates on the 2021 calendar in the coming months.
Performance – Cancel the performance programme for the remainder of 2020 playing season
Rationale - Another decision not taken lightly, with many of the reasons for cancelling our own events also being relevant to performance activity, along with the additional key aspect of not knowing when international travel might be permitted. In taking an early decision in consultation with external funders to the performance programme and by making our position clear, it enabled us to redirect funds for golf club support.
Golf Club Financial Survey – To issue a short survey to all clubs
Rationale - This was the final key part in our planning to give us a clear picture on the facts behind the current landscape. Contrary to the thoughts of some, this was never intended as an intrusive survey, more to ensure we were basing decisions on facts as opposed to opinions. A personal thank you to all the clubs who completed this survey in such a timely manner. Through recent work, and with sportscotland’s assistance, we are now also gaining a clearer understanding of the number of clubs impacted by possible grant restriction based on their rateable value. This will continue to be an ongoing discussion with Government for us.
Return to Golf – A topic that many have been asking about and one which we are actively engaging with many key partners to move forward. We have had positive discussion in the last few days with government (through key contacts in Active Scotland and sportscotland) and have their support in what is a planning phase. We are also collaborating with key industry partners to ensure that across GB&I we are developing a consistent approach that can be adopted when the time is right. It is highly likely that any return will be in phases, with single golfers or household groups in the first instance to ensure that the golf industry continues to adhere to government guidelines – within our clubs, we will have a mix of front line & key workers, along with vulnerable groups who have been shielding or self-isolating for lengthy periods and we must continue to ensure we can keep everyone safe. To be clear, we are very much in the planning phase to ensure that when the time is right, we are well placed and have the support of key partners to be able to move quickly to update clubs with detailed information as to what a phased return to golf will look like. In the meantime, whilst we remain in lockdown with the restrictions in place we must continue to stay home and save lives.
Affiliation Fees – As you know our financial year runs from 1st October to 30th September, so the Coronavirus Pandemic impact on Golf Course closure happened just a few days short of 6 months into the current year. The Regulations of Scottish Golf state that all affiliation fees are in fact due by the end of January, but in recent years Scottish Golf moved this to the end of March to try and assist clubs with cash flow based on when a large portion of club membership fees fall due. For various reason as of today almost 40% of affiliation fees due to Scottish Golf remain unpaid. The payment due by date was informally extended to allow time for further internal discussion and we have made no representation to clubs chasing the outstanding balances at this time. On a more positive note, as of last week our membership reported an average of 75% of 2020 membership has already been renewed, 64% of Clubs have already applied for/received their Government Support Fund, and 76% have made use of Government Furlough. For clarity this is based on 135 clubs that responded.
Scottish Golf Support - With all of the above taken into consideration, we are now in a position to announce our plans to assist golf clubs from a financial perspective over the remaining 6 months of this financial year, and into our 2020/21 financial year. We are making an immediate commitment to our clubs that offers in excess of £575,000 of support by way of refund or rebate on affiliation fees. This equates to 50% reduction of the remaining 6 months of the financial year. We are also committing to interest free payment plans for any club that needs it for the 2019/20 financial year and the 2020/21 financial year.
Summary of our commitment:
All clubs can apply for a 25% refund on their total 2019/20 affiliation fee invoice. Clubs that have already paid can apply for a refund or carry over a credit to the 2020/21 invoice year.
All clubs can apply for an interest free payment plan for both the 2019/20 period and the 2020/21 financial year.
Any club that elects not to take the 25% refund/discount, we will commit that value to a club support fund which will be used for clubs under considerable financial strain. The value of this fund will become clear once all refund applications have been processed and the outcome will be published.
Scottish Golf will communicate the application process to all clubs within the next 14 days (noting it will be different for clubs who have paid, those who are adhering to committed payment plans and those clubs who have not communicated their intent).
A final thought:
As a member organisation it is imperative that we all are considerate of each other and work as a collective. Here at Scottish Golf we have colleagues, with families, who work hard on behalf of the game in Scotland and whom we have looked to treat with fairness and respect. Some of those colleagues we have had to furlough - others continue to work supporting the membership through these challenging times. Like our member clubs, we have other fixed business expenses that we must pay, however we are in a fortunate position where the combination of reserves and reallocation of budget from events and performance activity have allowed us to take the financial decision to refund part of the affiliation fee. We recognise that some clubs will be struggling more than others in these challenging times, particularly those who don’t have reserves on which they can rely.
If we commit to working together and supporting each other, golf can come out of this crisis in a stronger more unified way. I will do all that I can to support every club with the resources I have, but I also ask that clubs recognise that my limited team (13 since furlough) are working flat out to adapt to an ever-changing world. Following on from today, I will be in dialogue with the Areas and Counties to gain a clearer understanding of the challenges they are hearing of at a local level (many of these calls were scheduled at the end of last week), and I will also make myself available to assist our wider membership in any way that I can.
Thank you and stay safe.
Chief Operating Officer