January 31, 2000

RSPBA Millennium Group Report Issued

The much anticipated report from the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s ad hoc Millennium Group has been made public, and the Piper & Drummer is among the first to learn its contents. The report is seen by many as one of the most important developments in the 57 years of the organization’s history.

The elements of the report will be debated at the RSPBA’s annual general meeting in March, where its adoption will be voted on.

Basically, the report advises that the entire organization is restructured. The existing extremely controversial National Council and Music Board would be eliminated in favour of a smaller Management Board. The Management Board would comprise six executive members, including a Chief Executive and five Directors. There would be two non-voting members, a President and a Chairman of the RSPBA.

The five unpaid Directors would head separate committees: Finance, Operations, Education & Training, Marketing & Public Relations, and Strategic Development. Each group would concentrate only on its specific function, and each Director would be responsible for the progress of his or her committee.

Conflict of Interest Addressed

The report makes significant recommendations on eliminating the perception of conflict of interest within the RSPBA, which has dogged the organization since its inception. The Millennium Group report suggests that a charter be created to which all members would adhere. Part of the charter would be a declaration that RSPBA office bearers and adjudicators declare commercial interests in relation to the pipe band world.

This portion is almost certain to be the most contentious portion of the report.

It is perhaps interesting to note the charter approach appears to be similar to the process adopted for members of the new Scottish Parliament.

The report also recommends that the RSPBA should be all times open and transparent.

Run the RSPBA Like a Business

The report recommends that the RSPBA be run as a business, rather than by the piecemeal approach it takes now. A formal business plan with specific objectives would be developed. With a business plan in place, the RSPBA could then better apply for funding from various charitable and cultural organizations, such as Britain’s National Lottery and local and national Arts Councils. An example of this successful funding is Glasgow’s Piping Centre, which in 1999 received a grant of £180,000 from the National Lottery. Without a formal business plan, partnerships and funding, the committee contends, are nearly impossible to attain.

Also recommended is that RSPBA involve its membership in ways never before attempted. At the heart of this is a Branch Trustee Council, which is basically an advisory board from each of the existing branches. The Branch Trustee Council would have no actual power, but would have considerable clout in advising the organization.

Said one member of a top Scottish band: “Right now the RSPBA is a completely closed operation, and the membership at large is simply ignored. Communication between membership and management needs to be improved. Anything would be better than what goes on – or doesn’t go on – now.”

In terms of Education & Training, the report advises that the RSPBA make a direct link into the National Education and Training programs in Scotland, establish joint education links with The Piping Centre and the Army School of Piping to maintain worldwide standards. RSPBA training and certification programs could then be exported to other parts of the world.

In the Marketing & Public Relations section, the report discusses the complete lack of marketing efforts currently in the RSPBA. For example, proceeds from merchandise from the World Pipe Band Championships go directly to the city of Glasgow. There would be a significant push to brand and market the RSPBA and its championships worldwide.

With the RSPBA’s recent financial straits, the committee recommends an examination of the RSPBA’s major asset, its expansive headquarters at 45 Washington Street. The RSPBA owns the building outright, and the Millennium Group report recommends that the organization assess the actual worth of the premises, located on what is currently prime Glasgow real estate. The building, the reports contends, could well be under utilized, and potential alternatives should be explored.

On the international front, there are direct references to recognizing other areas of the world with excellent pipe band standards, and working more closely with and learning from them. The RSPBA should strive to be the world’s centre of pipe band excellence, but still has much to learn from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other areas producing top bands.

On technology, the report apparently acknowledges that the RSPBA is woefully behind in taking advantage of the Internet. A significant Web site would be developed to improve worldwide communications and marketing.


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