Snowsport England AGM today up at Loughborough and headed up there this morning. Not sure how the day was going to pan out but one thing for sure is that it would not be quiet. There has been a Governance review taking place for over 18 months now and it has long been overdue. The board brought in someone from outside the skiing community to conduct the review and it has looked at the whole setup and structure of the sport in England.
Any review that takes place will come up with recommendations that will always create further discussion both good and bad. There is so much wrong with the corporate structure and the committees that getting everything right straight away is impossible. It has been clear over the past few weeks that some people have several reservations about the proposals and were going to vote against the changes. What has been interesting about objections is that I haven’t any suggestions for improvement from these people, just ‘this is wrong because of x,y,z…’.
So in attendance today was most of the SSE board and several members from Snowsports across England. For such an important AGM I was surprised at how few were there, probably 30-35 people, plus the legal representative and someone from the insurance company Endsleigh. Several proxy votes had already been cast but clubs and other members but it still looked pretty close. There was a little excitement and confusion at the start of proceedings as we got into the events in the right legal order but it soon passed into a healthy discussion about the changes. The first proposal to change the names from English Ski Council to Snowsport England was easy enough. The next resolution was somewhat more challenging and generated the greatest discussion, the changes to the Articles of Association.
The biggest concerns here were the changes proposed for clubs and regions. Clubs voting themselves out of a vote for the future and allowing one member one vote. This makes sense and will give SSE what it wants regarding numbers and what it has to deliver to Sport England, but it still does not address some of the concerns raised about clubs and the impact on them. In reality clubs are needed still and how the interaction works in the future is going to be interesting. SSE will eventually communicate directly with members and that is fine, but what is a concern is how this communication will work with the clubs and the regions for that matter.
Personally the biggest impact is the impact on the region. I can see what they want to do for the future and many of the changes are directed at those regions that do not do anything or very little. However the discussions that have taken place to date give the impression that there will be an impact on the likes of ERSA, SRSA and LSERSA who are the very active regions today. It is the practicalities on the ground that concern me more than anything. No problem changing if we have to and it makes sense but I want to know more. This was discussed at length and what is clear is that there needs to be much more discussion about the detail in the coming months and this was promised. No problem being more accountable to SSE and there are certainly some areas we need to be, such as the regional grant, but at the same time we already struggle with time and anything that introduces much more administrative overhead will not be welcome. Certainly one to watch in the next twelve months.
Most of the noise came from the northern clubs / regions and while they raised several concerns I heard very few suggestions for improvements! All very well objecting to the changes but what else should SSE do?
One bit of feedback which was quite interesting is that SSE is looking for more board directors and they have been advertising. They have had a lot of responses but virtually nothing from Snowsport related people, which they are obviously disappointed about. Not sure where they have advertised as this was the first time I have heard about it! Some aspects of SSE communication has improved over the past few months but this is still something that must have missed that improved process. I had thought about suggesting to the Northern guys that one of them should join the board to ensure the changes are progressed in a satisfactory way.
The terms of references are being drafted for board review for the five key committees and hopefully they should be approved soon. At the moment we have major problems with ASC and ROTP and they are not accountable, transparent and deliver very little. For a long time I and others have been saying that ROTP should be disbanded and ASC the main committee which initiates sub-committees as and when something is needed and for a short period of time. I asked how soon we can see changes and next weekend there is an ASC meeting and in theory ROTP will be disbanded then. All very well but I would like to see exactly what happens as we do not want the same people just moving around. I can see this one rumbling on for some time to come.
One thing I would like to do is thank Jeremy Eaton and his team for the work on this over the last few months. In general it was good to get the changes progressed and over the next year or two we should see positive change come but we do need to ensure some of the personnel are changed at the same time to ensure progression is made. SSE has to change to keep up with everything else how it gets there is going to be interesting.