At the latest BCGBA Management Committee meeting an item of business normally done at the Annual Meeting was completed. The ongoing problems caused by the pandemic and the various lockdowns had caused a delay in the publication of the BCGBA accounts.
The accounts include the fund managed by the Trustees which are only used to support the development of the sport (more on this shortly).
The accounts of crown green bowls national governing body showed a surplus of just over £37,000 on the year to 31st October 2020. This is mainly due to a couple of items. Firstly, the loss of all competitions saved the association over £18,000 in the men’s account when compared to the previous year’s accounts. This coupled with the decision to take part in the government furlough scheme which saved another £10,000 or so in payments to the salaried officers.
The annual club fee, which should have showed an increase to match the newly increased club fee, showed a small deficit. It was reported that work is ongoing to find out which clubs have, so far, survived the pandemic and the BCGBA is working with the counties to make sure that clubs pay the fees for last year. For the clubs who have paid the BCGBA is offering a subsidy on this year’s fees.
With all activities restricted by the pandemic the various meetings throughout the year were held over the internet. This saved over £4,000 and went a long way to offset the drop of over £7,000 in sponsorship. There may be good news on the horizon regarding competition sponsors, but this will be published later when final details are confirmed.
The accounts are published in the BCGBA handbook and if you were able to get, and keep, them then you can see the evolution of the accounts. I strongly recommend if you do then you should invest in a good magnifying glass as there is a lot to fit in each page, the font size is small! You will find the Ladies accounts were not included as they were as separate governing body until the latest accounts.
Men’s Competition’s account
For many years, the competition account has been in deficit and the amount depended on the size of the crowd at the Champion of Champions held at the Waterloo in Blackpool. With its huge stands in place the Waterloo could look after a crowd in excess of the numbers who went to each Champions event. Even with a proportion of the gate money being given to the Waterloo, to cover their costs on the day, the event remains the most profitable of the year.
As a rule, the success of the Senior Merit depended on where it was held and the cost of erecting temporary seating. Since then, the trend for the account is to show an increase in the deficit as a review, an increase, in prize money also corresponded with a drop in sponsorship and income.
In 2004 (the earliest accounts I could find) the income from the Champions was £8,093 and the expenditure £6,361. The Competitions account for that year showed a deficit of £4,724. The Senior Merit, held at the superb Rolls Royce Club in Derby, showed a loss of over £3,000 that year.
The broadcast budget was also moved over from the Development account (therefore paid by new player registrations) and increased the deficit even more before this was cancelled. For the record that year the broadcast fees of just over £20,000 contributed to a deficit of nearly £35,000. The broadcast budget had been managed by the late Mel Evans MBE. His last year in post showing that he had grown the income from advertising to over £11,000 (up from approx. £6,000 the year before).
The pre-pandemic accounts showed a deficit of over £19,000 with the Champions event still profitable but the Senior Merit deficit had steadily grown to over £2,400.
Opinions on this account differ widely. To some it is a waste of money as only a small number of player’s benefit. To others it is a reward for being the best in the sport. The accounts are at end of this article for to decide for yourself.
Trustee managed account
Ladies and Gentlemen, I pray your indulgence as I offer a little bit of history and a brief journey back to 1990 (or at least I think it was).
It was in, what looked like, the somewhat ambitiously named ‘Cocktail Lounge’ of the Police Sports and Social Club in the Fairfield district of Liverpool that I witnessed something remarkable. There had been rumours, gossip and whispered words, for a few years before but it was here that it happened. There were questions and some answers, and I must admit the fog of time may have obscured some of the details.
The annual Merseyside County general meeting packed the room, the seats long since taken and all that was left was to stand with backs to the pale pink walls, and obscuring the signs telling us all that a refreshing Babycham or a Double Diamond could make life easier to cope with.
It was not a quiet meeting and at times you could feel the emotion in the air, blood pressures were raised, and many questions were asked. What was the cause of such hypertension? It was a subject that made the evangelicals across the crown green bowling world overly excited. This was long before the invention of the internet and social media which would of course attract all the evangelicals from across the globe and become their natural home.
The whispers and rumours were remarkably correct. The BCGBA is asking every bowler, both now and in the future, to pay a one-off fee of £1. A life membership it was called, and it was for life, you were even going to get a card telling you so. The questions on what it was all going to be used for went somewhat unanswered. I do remember that some said it was for Development. Like the way Glasnost and Perestroika went on to become such notable words in the thawing of the US / USSR relations and no one really knew what they meant either.
What is going to be developed and who will be developing it? No one really knew or at least appeared to offer an opinion, or at least not one I can remember from all those decades ago. It was agreed though that something had to be done. Pubs had started to close greens and Council owned park greens had started to have their maintenance budgets cut or had been closed altogether. It was agreed that less people were playing the game than in years before.
Would the £1 go to paying higher salaries or straight into higher prize money at competitions? No, the monies raised would be protected from the daily running costs of the BCGBA and they would be used to fund projects. The actual fund itself would be managed by trustees who would be separate from the BCGBA officers. The BCGBA had no claim on the money in the account and the only requirement was to report on the status of the account. The feelings ran high, though I think the issue was whether this would become an annual fee, or everyone would be asked to pay more in a few years’ time.
And so it came to pass that a few days’ later that delegates from Merseyside joined other counties at the annual BCGBA rules revision meeting. It was here that the delegates agreed that a life membership scheme should be started. Perhaps it was in the days that followed that engravers embarked on a project to preserve for all time, on tablets of stone and in Runic script, that each crown green bowler and then each new bowler would pay £1 to create a fund to develop the game (this sentence and possibly others before it may have been slightly embellished, perhaps like a good stone carving).
Since then, the membership fee has increased and this income is used in the Development account with any surplus, in theory, moved over to the Trustees. A scan through BCGBA accounts show that some of the items supported include the merger of BCGBA with the Ladies association, the development of the national database, the complete restructuring and relaunch of coaching as part of a national qualification, grants to counties to support the development of junior bowlers and club grants. Though I must report that the amounts made available for club grants will only cover a small part of any qualifying project a club may want to apply for. The National and County Development Officers, and the creation of a 5-year National Development Plan, are also funded through this account.
There have been some who have said the Trustee managed funds do not generate enough of a return. Whether you think this is the correct way of doing it, whether someone else should do it or whether they should be put on the 2nd favourite in the 3:30pm at Newmarket… It is up to you. I can report that funds received from each bowler are managed with as little risk as possible. For those who have not kept an eye of previous statements, which are included in the BCGBA Handbook, the investments are managed by Old Mutual Wealth who took over the Skandia Investments.
The last major use of the funds was to support the BCGBA Centenary year project in 2010. A few years before a proposal on whether the BCGBA should be used to develop a National Headquarters provided much debate. After a few years of discussions with Stockport Council a proposal to use the fund to develop the greens at Alexandra Park, and to tie the BCGBA into a long-term lease, was rejected. The main issue, apart from a debate as to whether crown green bowls needed a national headquarters, was the large costs of developing the site and adapting it to what the BCGBA would need.
The Trustees have now placed a limit on the funds they will manage, and any excess is transferred over to the development account. Around the same time as the Alexandra Park proposals some of the fund was temporarily transferred over to help with the problems the BCGBA had with cash-flow.
The current statement lists a drop from £185,833 to £161,515, which is £24,318 or 13%, on the market value of the fund compared to the 2019 statement. The 2019 statement showed a drop of £2,787 compared to the 2018 statement. The Stock markets had already taken a huge hit in the run up to the announcement of the first lockdown in March last year and at one point the FTSE 100 was around 33% down. There was some recovery later in the year and, since the Year End, the stock markets have continued to recover so (hopefully) the fund will continue to recover.
The Financial Officer, Graeme Underhill, also states that a change to the way the Development account is shown, and it is…
“Historically, a calculation has been done each year to work out how much money is payable into Trustee Funds. Theoretically, any surplus on the Development Account would be payable to the Trustees and any deficit would be receivable from the Trustees. The Development Account normally generates surpluses and the monies owed to the Trustees totalled over £61,000 on 31st October 2019.
I have long held the view that the prospect of ever transferring funds to the Trustees is highly unlikely. Indeed, the most obvious outcome is that this balance can only get bigger as BCGBA draws down funds to use on Development. As a result, in consultation with our Reporting Accountants, we have concluded that the current policy is nonsense, and that this policy will be scrapped. This process has led to the delivery of a far more sensible Balance Sheet, which I believe Counties and Clubs alike will be able to understand much easier”.
It would seem likely, to me anyway, that in the forthcoming debates on how the BCGBA is managed and funded then how the trustee managed fund is used should also be part of that debate.
When compared to our flat-green cousins the accounts show markedly differing figures. Total BCGBA assets are a fraction of Bowls England’s who were able to absorb losses of over £500,000 with some ease.
There have been proposals in the past to move the BCGBA funding to an individual rather than a club-based scheme and I have no doubt there will be further debates and proposals in the future.
The accounts were distributed to counties a couple of months ago, even appeared on a Huddersfield league website, and each county had the opportunity to examine and question the figures. They have now been agreed and the BCGBA has moved onto this year’s business. An article on the events planned for this year will follow shortly.
The links for the accounts mentioned in this article are: