I posted a poll asking if there should be caps on pipe band section sizes. There was one two years ago, too, and so far results show that about 10 per cent fewer people now think that there should be maximum limits than in 2003. The polls aren’t scientific, of course, and maybe it’s the time of the year. Ask the same question in September and people might answer differently.
Here are the pros and cons of putting limits on section sizes:
1. More players to go around for other bands.
2. Strengthens the competition community.
3. Levels the playing-field.
4. Makes members practice harder to keep their spot.
5. Shortens tuning time.
6. Lowers band overhead costs.
7. Less travel time for judges walking around the circle.
1. Stifles natural evolution.
2. Limits creativity.
3. Smaller overall numbers at practices and competitions.
4. Less visually impressive.
At any rate, no association will ever put caps on section sizes unless the RSPBA does it first. Non-RSPBA bands that want to compete at the World’s can’t have their size limited if they want to rate against the UK bands. If Field-Marshal Montgomery (note the hyphen and the single L in Marshal) goes out with 22 pipers, then sure as hell SFU will, too.
Personally, I think it’s a good idea to put limits on sections, but I do admit that there are drawbacks. I just think that there are fewer cons, and the pros are weightier.
In Grade 1, I’d say a maximum 20 pipers, 10 sides, two bass drums and five tenors is reasonable. Bands would have to submit their final rosters two months before the first contest, which allows enough time for players who don’t survive the cut to find other places to play. Grade 2 might be 18, 9, two and four, and so forth.
Capping sections at large-but-not-crazy-large sizes makes sense for all — and especially for the overall competitiveness of the grades themselves.