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Scottish Golf expecting ‘positive’ financial results after previous ‘planned deficit’

11.43am 31st December 2021 - Growing the Game

Scottish Golf is set to deliver a “positive” set of accounts for the latest financial year as the governing body prepares to “start moving forward with the opportunities that it has taken us a couple of years to create”, reports The Scotsman

Those were the messages delivered by chief operating officer Karin Sharp and chief commercial officer Iain Forsyth as they spoke exclusively to The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster about a wide range of matters concerning what is now a Rosyth-based organisation.

The annual accounts will not be published until next year ahead of the annual meeting, but, on the back of a £250,000 downturn in financial fortunes in 2020 due mainly to a 25 per cent affiliation fee being offered to affiliated clubs as they were hit by an initial Covid-19 lockdown, a healthier result is in the offing.

“Our deficit last year was in part timing related and in part because of our decision to rebate the 25 per cent for affiliation fees, so it was a planned position,” said Sharp.

“At the same time, though, I think there was some confusion around the reading of our accounts as we call development everything that we do for clubs, not just the digital piece.”

That was in reference to development costs in 2020 rising to £1.3 million from just over £480,000 the previous year.

“The actual spend on the actual technology platform wasn’t as high as some people interpreted it to be as it covered all of the other services, whether that was our junior initiatives, our club education funds or the grants we do for clubs or safeguarding activities,” added Sharp.

“Last year’s deficit was planned whereas this year we have an audit closed meeting later in the week and we are still waiting on the final numbers for that. It would be too early to say, but it’s a positive set of financial accounts that we are expecting to come forward.”

Over the past couple of years, a new Scottish Golf App and a Venue Management (VMS) have been rolled out for members and member clubs.

“A lot of people talk about the App or VMS in isolation,” said Forsyth. “I think a change that has happened and will continue to happen, it’s more of a digital approach across the business, if you want to call it that.

“What we set out three years ago and is becoming easier for us to identify now, we are giving a more tangible return to the golf club.

“From a customer service point of view from an internal perspective helping golfers directly, we get thousands of emails where golfers are directly getting assistance from us, so that’s another support system from within our building here.”

Earlier this year, Scottish Golf launched OpenPlay, which was aimed at an estimated 500,000 independent golfers in the home of golf who are not currently golf club members.

In what was as “one of the biggest changes to the sport in a generation”, what were once termed as “nomadic golfers” are being offered the chance to obtain an OpenPlay handicap through the new World Handicap System at a cost of £5.99 per month.

“Open Play has attracted 1300 members in the first three months,” said Forsyth. “What is quite interesting about that number is that our average age on the latest return, I think for females it’s 60 and for males it is 55.

“The average OpenPlay member is 39 and what we are hearing from other similar digital things is that the average age is lower and it’s potentially a different audience, you could say.”

The governing body recently teamed up with the electric vehicle charging provider, EVC, to provide member clubs with charging infrastructure, with interest from around 60 clubs being deemed as “positive”.

Forsyth added: “We are still finalising commercial arrangements for the app. We wanted to get it to a stage where we actually had traffic, if you like. Commercial parties now are interested in data and facts as opposed to a splash on the homepage of the website.

“And, from a commercial point of view, we can now hopefully start moving forward with the opportunities that it has taken us a couple of years to create.”

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