November 15, 2023

Looming possibility of only two major RSPBA championships in 2024

As the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association alluded to in the minutes of its October 7th Board of Directors meeting, the organization has reportedly cautioned that its 2024 competition season could see only two major championships taking place as the clock is running down on securing sponsorship from city councils around the country.

With only the World’s and Scottish championships confirmed – the latter for the next three years – the UK, European and British championships have yet to find a home. With councils having to finalize 2024 budgets by the end of November, only a few weeks could remain to make deals.

The November 14th RSPBA Glasgow & West of Scotland Branch meeting was reportedly attended by RSPBA Chief Executive Colin Mulhern, who relayed the news to leaders from member bands, saying that a statement about the situation was to come from the head office at the end of November.

According to several sources close to the matter, Mulhern reported at the meeting that the association is in discussions with four potential locations, but there are no commitments yet.

“If nothing surfaces before the end of the year it’s less likely that a local council will access sizeable funding for a 2024 event,” said one inside source who spoke on condition that their name not be included.

Mulhern allegedly floated the idea that a plan to have several minor competitions count towards the Champions of Champions table, a concept that was apparently considered in 2023 when only four of the five championships were held, and the British cancelled outright.

At the time of publication, Mulhern had not responded to a request for comment.

The same sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the meeting as “hostile” and having “a lot of negative rumblings amongst the bands.” One source said, “People have had enough.”

By its bylaws, the RSPBA must hold five major championships, each an aspect of its charitable status.

The past two UK Championships have been held at Lurgan, Northern Ireland, and have been in Ulster since its inception in 2014. The 2023 European Championship was staged at Aberdeen, and Dumbarton, Scotland, has been the setting for the Scottish Championship for over a decade.

“This could result in the bands looking for wholesale change in the management structure.” – RSPBA insider

No details were discussed regarding how a backup plan of using smaller competitions over the season for aggregate Champion of Champions points, but it could result in a substantially changed environment for the UK pipe band scene and possibly a boon for non-major contests that have mostly seen a substantial decline in attendance, with bands across the grades focus their attention and finances on the five majors.

Whether smaller contests would welcome a substantially larger entry would certainly vary by their overall objectives as an event, with some content to keep things local and more manageable, particularly if they have limited space for competition circles and band buses.

As with all member-driven associations, the structure and management of the RSPBA are ultimately determined by the members. Each branch nominates and elects its leaders, and those leaders, in turn, sit on the RSPBA’s board of directors.

“Directors are nominated by the bands,” said an RSPBA insider. “This could result in the bands looking for wholesale change in the management structure.”

The organization’s annual general meeting is in March.

Securing championships late is not typical but has precedence. In 2001, for example, the RSPBA did not secure two major championships until well into the year but ultimately pinned down sponsors. The location for and sponsor of the 2023 European Championships were not announced until December 24, 2022.

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  1. Why don’t they move one to Edinburgh? Move one back to Cowal. Straighten out how they treat the bands at Cowal and then get one in Northern Ireland.
    Rename the European title. Rename the British one too.
    If they were in the same places every year there would be some predictability which local business sines could rely on. The local councils might be more interested if there was a long term benefit for them.



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