December 06, 2023

RSPBA indicates only two major championships for 2024

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has stated to member bands that only the World Championships and the Scottish Championships have been secured for the 2024 UK competition season.

The letter from RSPBA Chairman Kevin Reill, December 6, 2023,  said:

To the members of the RSPBA

I said I would get a message to you as soon as it became clearer to the Board of Directors the situation regarding Major Championships in the 2024 season.

At this moment in time, I can only confirm that we have the Scottish Championships, Leven Grove Park, Dumbarton on the 27th of July 2024 and the World Pipe Band Championships Glasgow Green, Glasgow on the 16th and 17th of August 2024.

I can imagine the disappointment that this will bring to many of our outstanding bands who support the RSPBA year on year. It is very disappointing to the Board of Directors who have worked tirelessly to secure Major Championships.

For the last 2 years we have been working with many Local Authorities and private entities, not only in Scotland but England, Ireland, and Eire.

As you are aware many Local Authorities are finding the ‘money’ situation as difficult as everyone else and they, tell us they don’t have the disposable income to commit for 2024.

Many of the meetings we have had are looking towards Local Authorities hosting Major Championships in 2025/6 and onwards. We will continue to be involved in these discussions.

One Local Authority has indicated they won’t be able to tell us until January 2024 if they intend hosting a major championship.

The Board of Directors have a group in place to look at some alternatives for the 2024 season, more information will be distributed when I have it.

All the very best for 2024 season have a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Kevin Reilly
The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association

The organization’s bylaws state that it must hold major championships as part of its charitable status. The British, UK and European Championships are all without a home so far in 2024.

The association had indicated that a Plan B could include counting “minor” competitions counting towards aggregate Champion of Champion points.

An RSPBA season with fewer than four major competitions is unprecedented in the history of the seventy-six-year-old organization. In 2023, the association held only four majors, unable to find a sponsor for the British Championships.

The financial implications for the RSPBA could be profound, as the association’s revenue is gained mostly from championship sponsorships and entry fees. According to reports, the association was asking for more than £100,000 for sponsorship of the UK Championships in Northern Ireland.

If there is a silver lining, it could be that minor competitions, which have seen substantially reduced entries over the last few decades, benefitting from increased attendance by bands looking to accrue league table points.

At publication time, Reilly had not responded to a request for further details.

Similarly, no active competing member of the association who would agree to put their name to their comments, fearing political repercussions, could be sourced.

What’s your opinion? As always, we encourage readers to contribute their thoughts with our Comments feature below, where you can express opinions with your name or anonymously.

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  1. how much money do the Local Authorities have to commit to the event? it’s not like they are giving out huge monetary prizes. All bands are already participating on their own dimes. why not moving some of the championships to the US?

    1. According to Mr. Reilly, the organizers actually make money from the event. It’s puzzling why RSPBA had trouble securing a venue for the events! His letter certainly didn’t shed any light on what the real issues are. Is it just money or something else?
      Here’s what Mr Reilly said in a recent interview: ‘We have produced a pack detailing how they would make money from a championship. The economic impact is positive and considerable. It is estimated, for example, that Dumbarton makes between £1.5 -£2m from its staging of the Scottish – and they give free entry to everyone!

      ‘Moreover we know that Aberdeen made a profit from running the Europeans last year. This event was so successful that local bands have launched a petition to have it restored. I went to thank them for that and I can confirm that I have signed it.

  2. It is what it is. The current model of competition and the current model of pipe bands management and organisation has run its course so now is an opportune time for radical thinking. Silly chat about the All Ireland or the Cowal is time wasting, the association could hardly wait to get shot of the Cowal for goodness sake, they would be mad to return to that. The All Ireland that I saw this year, has had at least, a reduction of one third the number of bands in 20 years, as for spectators, well if you take all the people wearing kilts out of the number of spectators at a contest, whats left? The pipe band movement is struggling, particularly since Covid, and no amount of papering over the cracks is going to change that. When you have been attending contests as long as I have, the numbers of competing bands and spectators is decimated compared to a few years ago. And like all organisations who have been massively successful, they end up eating themselves. 30 odd years ago, Strathclyde Police had what was considered a huge band, 3 rows of 4. Into this millennium we watched in amazement at bands with more than 20 pipers and more than 10 drummers. A blind man on a galloping horse could see how this would eventually end up, like an upside down pyramid, all the power at the top and the bottom of the tree on its knees. It was not sustainable, but no one cared much, the Grade 1 bands got stronger and stronger at the expense of the smaller bands who are the lifeblood of the organisation. Loyalty went out the window. The RSPBA had a chance to help to level up, but chose to look away. Build from the bottom up, should have been the mantra, they chose the opposite. Now the country has run out of money, Councils have to justify their spending to rate payers, who quite frankly aren’t much interested in a niche hobby like piping. So, not so much downsizing by choice but downsizing by necessity is the future. Sad but inevitable, I’m afraid.



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