Jan 11 2014

Matters of some importance

importantPostings to the Barnes Runners website are usually short, pithy and to-the-point. This one, unfortunately, is required to be a little longer – because it has to address a number of serious matters that we will discuss and debate at the Annual General Meeting in a couple of weeks’ time. Please read what follows carefully. You will find no pictures of George Osborne crying at Mrs Thatcher’s funeral, no references to astronauts or Central American dictatorships, no veiled critiques of Kim Jong-un’s transport policy and no Latin mottos. Just facts. And it is very important that you familiarise yourselves with these facts… because we are going to ask you to do something that we have not previously asked you to do – not in ten years of Barnes Runners AGMs. We’re going to ask you to vote – in a referendum of sorts. By standing up and being counted.

Alexander Salmond is not using Barnes Runners as a litmus test to try and second-guess the outcome of this year’s Scottish Independence Referendum. Nor is this the first step towards Britain exiting the EU. But a number of not so insignificant changes to the local athletics landscapes mean that we ourselves have to bring in some changes of our own. Whether or not these changes turn out to be sweeping depends on you. Although the committee has previously viewed democracy as something that gets in the way of managing a running club, we believe that your views and preferences should govern how we move forward.

What usually happens before governments cut winter heating allowances, decimate the mining industry or introduce legislation to cull the over-60s is that they enumerate some of the less controversial policy decisions they have made over the years or list a plethora of examples of ways in which they are running the country effectively and efficiently. In this vein, I think it might be worthwhile reminding you where the various little pounds that make up your £25 annual subscription go.

  • Many running clubs meet in malodorous rugby clubs or gymnasia. We meet in Rose House – a listed (androsehouse-pink listing) seventeenth century building that is the envy of many other running clubs in Barnes. We pay the Barnes Community Association £200 per annum so that we can use it as our base three times a week and host the odd meeting. The money we pay them is partly a “goodwill” payment, but it also contributes to cleaning costs (not all of us are skilled in keeping our shoes spotless when we run in the winter).
  • We pay the Association of Running Clubs £121 for public liability insurance. Running through south-west London’s streets after dark or “buzzing” deer in Richmond Park are high-risk activities. Some form of protection against the risks of liabilities imposed by lawsuits and similar claims is essential.
  • We have a website that gets “hits” from all over the world (mainly because of our poorly honed SEO practices and the Chancellor of the Exchequer-centric tags that some of us use for our postings). This costs us in the region of £320 to host per year.
  • We organise approximately three “official” social events per year, including outdoor eating fixtures in the summer, the End-of-Year Celebratory Event at year-end and pleasurable endeavours designed to gauge people’s general and specialist knowledge (“quizzes”). Some of these include (luxury) prizes and we subsidise approximately 50% of the cost of these events.
  • We participate in occasional club races. The Parkland relay costs us in the region of £72 per year.
  • We subsidise approximately 30% of the cost of kit.

We have a “sinking fund” for the odd metaphorical broken boiler, repairs to our communal areas or wisdom tooth extraction, but we do not seek to make a profit (we are legally prohibited from doing so) and are committed to ploughing profits back into the club for the benefit of its members. Just out of interest, our subscription charges are more or less average compared with other clubs in the south-east.

So what’s changing?

Our interval training sessions have become a cornerstone fixture in our training calendar over the years. For many of us, Thursday evenings are not complete unless a significant chunk of them involves circumnavigating a Canadian goose excreta besplattered track in sub-zero temperatures after dark, armed only with a head-torch and tenacity. But, after many years, management of this municipal facility has been taken over by a trust (BEST or the the Barn Elms Sports Trust) and the only way they can restore and maintain the facility is to start charging people who use it (to the tune of £1.50). The average marathon contender could therefore expect to spend £24 on using the track within the framework of a 16-week training programme – in addition to their £25 club subscription. The total – £49 – is more money than I have spent on trousers since 1989.

The compromise

In preference to our paying BEST on a per-capita basis, I am currently in discussions with them, the desired outcome of which would see us paying them a blanket per-annum payment so that any member of Barnes Runners could use the track on presentation of evidence of membership.

We turn to the question of how we might finance this blanket payment to BEST. How do governments avoid a triple-dip recession and reduce borrowing? – by increasing levies and taxing those who can afford it, of course… not by targeting front-line services, closing care homes and buggering up the NHS. Everyone knows that. So Barnes Runners would like to ask you for a little more, but in return, it would give you more. Quite a bit more, hopefully.

So what are we asking for?`

Five (5) more of your pounds. That’s about three lattes in Hammersmith… or a down payment on half a latte at Georginas on Barnes High Street.

When exactly will the club start giving me more?

Barnes Runners is not currently affiliated to England Athletics, and whether or not it should be has been under discussion recently.

The main benefits of affiliation are that individual club members would be able to apply for a competition licence, and this would give them reduced entry fees (reductions of up to £3 have been reported) for UKA licenced events. Members also benefit from discounted products at Sweatshop, and other discounts may be available for coaching courses. With the competition licence alone, members would recover that extra fiver after only a couple of half marathons.

Public liability insurance is also included in the joining fee (so we could scrap that £121 public liability insurance cost). And depending on the number of members that choose to apply for a competition licence, a number of guaranteed London marathon places would be allocated to the club, as well as preferential entries for other events. A considerable selection of online resources (“runners’ porn”) would also be available for the club to access.

We would also be able to apply for subsidies, buy in professional training and qualify for grants – both from the borough and from England Athletics itself. This would mean a more structured approach to our training, enhanced status for the club and maybe even better barbecues (we could get rolls for our hotdogs).

So we will be asking you if you want to pay an extra £5 and get unlimited club-subsidised usage of the track, cheaper race entries and much more… or if you want to continue to pay £25, pay for track usage on an ad-hoc basis, and pay the full price for race entry. Just for fun, we will also ask you if you think Scotland should once again be an independent sovereign state.

The AGM will also bring with it the usual opportunity to elect a new committee. Thank you for all the emails you have sent me in the last week or so with your nominations. I am compiling a list of all the candidates for the various committee posts, together with the names of the people nominating and seconding them. This list will be published the day before the AGM. Don’t forget – you still have another week or so to send me your nominations.

If you are still reading, then I think some sort of reward is in order. Click here to view what I am sure you have been secretly hoping for all along.

About the author


1 comment

  1. pascal

    Beautifully written. I always have a quiet chuckle when I read your posts.

    Happy to pay more each year. Big dilemma for me if we affiliate is whether
    to change 1st claim affiliation. I imagine there would be many new members
    and the question is whether that would be a good thing.

Comments have been disabled.