A governing body that can’t even run a bath. I was due to attend the England Golf Awards Evening last week, but I cancelled my place, for two main reasons. First, I think it is not fitting to break bread with people when you are in the midst of criticising them strongly and secondly, their recent stance on affiliation fees has left me in no mood for celebration.
The Finance Director of England Golf, Simon Wilson, has clarified the rather optimistic stance of England Golf on their view on Affiliation Fees.
He says: “...we regard the affiliated club to be more than the members’ section of a proprietary club set up for competitions etc....” He adds: “As our services are geared to more than a narrow ‘member’s section we take the view that the affiliated club is the wider proprietary club and thus provide handicapping, club support visits and course rating services on that basis. We therefore expect all golfers who have a contract for extended playing rights on an affiliated proprietary clubs course to be affiliated to England Golf.”
There are several parts of the above that have left me aghast. This is contrary to the rules that almost all clubs have affiliated to the old English Golf Union and now England Golf. The main crux of the affiliation was that the ‘members’ of a club could not be influenced by their proprietor in relation to handicaps and competitions. Therefore club events and handicaps would be run fairly.
This left course owners free to nurture new golfers and those that didn’t want to join up for formal events or handicaps and those golfers could then join in with club events when their golf reached a level where they wanted to gain a handicap and compete. At this point they paid their affiliation fee. A two speed system, with choice. Not perfect perhaps, but very workable.
England Golf seem intent on getting bigger and received a bit of a hiccup when their funding was substantially reduced by Sport England. So rather than downsize appropriately and accept that they will have to ‘cut their cloth accordingly’ they have decided to push the proprietary sector and firm up their ‘affiliation rules’.
This topic is slightly less of an issue for member owned clubs, as for the main part their golfers are less likely to be beginners and occasional players, but many members clubs must be concerned that a club of limited financial resources and perhaps 450 members will have to pay over the thick end of £10,000 for a very limited return.
Plus this catch all tax includes all children, honorary members and even those that hardly ever play. England Golf should be helping struggling clubs - this is making it harder and they are not doing very much to help struggling clubs of any type. They want the money that affiliation fees deliver so they can continue with their ridiculously located head office at Woodhall Spa (paid for by a rise in affiliation fees). They want the affiliation fee income for more salaries for people gifted in activity, but not results. Worst of all they want the affiliation of these golfers so they can claim that they represent them. Clear nonsense.
They are claiming to represent people that have no opt out and no direct contact with England Golf. If England Golf are ever to work as an organisation they must slim down, get golfers to affiliate directly, dump their county shackles, sell Woodhall Spa and start acting in the interests of the sport instead of themselves. If they don’t they will be finished within a couple of years - they currently bring very little to the party and are unfairly taxing golfers. Scottish Golf has also made a complete hash of understanding this whole issue.
They think they need lots of funding, because some other sports have it. More nonsense. You do not need to be affiliated to enjoy skiing, or hiking, or walking your dog, or swimming in the sea or a pool. You can go to the gym without a permit.
Fishing is not taxed by a ‘governing body’. Golf needs no governing body. The R&A set the rules, clubs and CONGU regulate handicapping, the PGA sorts out the pros, BIGGA trains its greenkeepers brilliantly, the GCMA has lots of great training and qualifications for managers. The Golf Foundation does a great job of training juniors (-they should have their funding quadrupled at least).
The PGA European Tour is being innovative and also delivering great world class events - Keith Pelley is good. England Golf claim to be the governing body for golf - I don’t think they can claim this any more, if they ever could. There is much more on this in our leading article - I look forward to hearing your views.
Changes to the way England Golf are attempting to charge affiliation fees have left many people considering whether they are good value for money and whether they should in fact be paid by clubs and courses at all.