Karin Sharp, Scottish Golf’s chief operating officer, who took over the lead role following the sudden resignation of chief executive Andrew McKinlay last week, has issued a statement setting out the reasons behind some of the controversial decisions that the game’s governing body in Scotland has made in recent weeks and how it plans to support struggling clubs in the current Covid-19 lockdown crisis.
Writing in her first newsletter in her new lead role to SG members, Sharp said: “I want to offer a more detailed outline to our membership on decisions that have been made recently, and the strategy and rationale behind them. Making key decisions in such uncertain times is a challenge all businesses are facing and at Scottish Golf we have a responsibility to protect the organisation and all the clubs we represent.
“In such difficult circumstances, it was important that action was taken to deliver tangible offerings to all golf clubs. If ever the ‘one size fits all’ theory is not ideal, it is now, but to act swiftly this is the model that has to be used. From a financial planning perspective, there were many uncertainties where robust information was required to ensure that responsible business decisions were made.”
Responding to criticism that Scottish Golf rushed to cancel all amateur events for 2020, while other home unions postponed or cancelled events on a month-by-month basis, Sharp said: “The decision to cancel all events was not made lightly, or purely on the basis of when it would be possible to play a round of golf, or even run an event in the future.”
“We had to take into consideration the full requirements to run a National Championship and the impact it would have, like: When would courses be open for Championship play? Would it be fair to close a member’s course for up to a week and deny that membership their facility when they have been starved of golf for many weeks at a key time of the year? Would it be safe for our staff and volunteers to run events? When will normal playing conditions be achieved?
“We have been in touch with all of the 2020 host venue clubs and given them first refusal to host the same event in the 2021 season. We continue to work through the logistics of this with the current and subsequent year venues, but with staff furloughed both in clubs and at Scottish Golf, this process is going to take some time and we will provide further updates on the 2021 calendar in the coming months.”
Scottish Golf initially rejected pleas from clubs to get a rebate on their affiliation fees for 2020-21, but it has now backed down and offered to refund 25% of the annual fee.
Sharp said: “The regulations of Scottish Golf state that all affiliation fees are due by the end of January, but in recent years Scottish Golf moved this to the end of March to try and assist clubs with cash flow based on when a large portion of club membership fees fall due. For various reason as of today almost 40% of affiliation fees due to Scottish Golf remain unpaid. The payment due by date was informally extended to allow time for further internal discussion and we have made no representation to clubs chasing the outstanding balances at this time.
“On a more positive note, as of last week our membership reported an average of 75% of 2020 membership has already been renewed, 64% of clubs have already applied for/received their Government Support Fund, and 76% have made use of government furlough.”
“With all of the above taken into consideration, we are now in a position to announce our plans to assist golf clubs from a financial perspective over the remaining six months of this financial year, and into our 2020/21 financial year. We are making an immediate commitment to our clubs that offers in excess of £575,000 of support by way of refund or rebate on affiliation fees. This equates to 50% reduction of the remaining six months of the financial year. We are also committing to interest-free payment plans for any club that needs it for the 2019/20 financial year and the 2020/21 financial year.”
Sharp added: “If we commit to working together and supporting each other, golf can come out of this crisis in a stronger more unified way. I will do all that I can to support every club with the resources I have, but I also ask that clubs recognise that my team are working flat out to adapt to an ever-changing world.
“Following on from today, I will be in dialogue with the areas and counties to gain a clearer understanding of the challenges they are hearing of at a local level, and I will also make myself available to assist our wider membership in any way that I can.”