February 05, 2023

RSPBA’s British Championships in doubt after failure to secure new license

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s annual general meeting on March 11th promises to be a lively event after the world’s most powerful piping and drumming organization revealed in a statement to the general public that the “Board of Director’s [sic] despite their best efforts has been unable to secure a Sponsor for the British Pipe Band and Drum Major Championships in 2023.”

The announcement comes approximately three months after it was disclosed that Inverclyde Council would not consider holding the British again after it came in to license the event in 2022 at Battery Park in Greenock, Scotland.

The one-time staging of the British at Greenock followed the news that Renfrewshire Council elected to discontinue its sponsorship of the event in Paisley, where the contest had been held since 2016.

In 2019, the last time that the organization reported on revenues from the British Championship, £77,552 was disclosed as income from the event.

According to the RSPBA’s statement, a “working group” is being formed “to explore if an alternative approach is viable for the delivery of this Championship and will be consulting with Branches, Local Contest Promoters and Organisers with a view to hosting specific Championship Grades at various Local Contests.”

No further details were given, and at publication time the association had not responded to a request to elaborate, but the statement infers that there will not be a single British Championships, instead replaced with a variety of separate contests for grades spread over smaller events, presumably each counting toward Champion of Champion points and earning winners the title of British Champion for their grade.

The RSPBA’s Victoria-era headquarters at 45 Washington Street, Glasgow.

Such an approach could likely inject a much stronger entry at each small contest with an influx of many more bands than usual, especially in Grade 1, a category sparsely entered at all but a few small contests.

The association promised to elaborate not later than February 10th.

The move brings into question whether the RSPBA is within the bounds of its Articles of Association, which until March 2021 included a clause that required it to hold five major championships.

A special resolution was made at the time that said, “The championship list has not been maintained since the introduction of the UK Championship. To be flexible, the statement needs to be generic and avoid the need to list all the events the organisation operates both now and, in the future, whilst maintaining our registered titles Articles of Association – 4 (iv) Change Article: – (iv) organise and operate the World, European, British, Scottish, and all major pipe band championships held within the United Kingdom; To Read: – (iv) organise and operate all the Major Pipe Band Championships run under RSPBA Rules, protecting the registered titles World Pipe Band Championship and The World Pipe Band Championships.”

The RSPBA invested more than £1.5-million in an extensive renovation of its Glasgow headquarters following a significant fire in 2017 that caused substantial damage to the Victorian-era building.

To pay for the renovations, the association drained its cash reserves and secured various loans, relying on future licenses fees from the five major championships to restore the coffers. These licenses, membership dues and competition entry fees make up almost all of the RSPBA revenues.

The obviously unforeseen “perfect storm” of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the cancellation of two years of major championships, plus zero revenues from entries, and a substantial decline in membership registrations caused severe financial challenges. The organization helped through with government grants.

“The main story is the directors mismanaged the association and spent all the money that would have helped in this time of no council sponsors.”

The RSPBA has been required to maintain a minimum of £270,000 in cash – the amount needed to sustain the operations of the association for a full year – reserves at all times, but spent well beyond that amount on the renovation.

The renovation was fraught with controversy before it even started. The association insisted that it received unanimous approval from voting member-bands to spend its cash reserves at the time of more than £900,000 on the refurbishment. Critics have complained that the strong majority of bands were not on hand to have their opinions heard or votes counted.

“The main story is the directors mismanaged the association and spent all the money that would have helped in this time of no council sponsors,” one RSPBA insider said on condition that their name not be used. “But the money was spent to do up the building that no one wanted. But they say everyone wanted it – people didn’t get the choice.”

The RSPBA’s financial situation will be reviewed in full at the March 11th AGM. A full year of major championships, entries and registrations will presumably paint a more positive picture in the wake of the potential loss of revenues if there are no single British Championships in 2023.





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