The Special General Meeting had been called by the Council to amend the CA's Constitution, to implement changes to its governance. These would considerably reduce the size of the Council, change the basis on which it was elected, and focus its role on strategy and scrutiny of a new Executive Board, which would be charged with implementing it.
After concerns as to whether the meeting would be quorate, not helped by the closure of the District Line, it was pleasing to see that 35 members were at Hurlingham on a glorious spring day: thank you for your support. However, there was one notable absentee, Quiller Barrett, the President, who had phoned to say that he was stuck in what turned out to be a two-hour closure of the M25. Patricia Duke-Cox, one of our Vice-Presidents, was landed with the task of chairing the meeting.
George Noble prevented it being purely a formality, by raising a number of concerns about the proposed amendments to the Constitution and their implementation, which he asked the Council to consider. He wanted, and was given, assurance that the requirements of Sport England and recommendations of the Sport and Recreation Alliance had been considered. He felt that each Federation should have at least one representative, but was told that was incompatible with the objectives of restricting the Council to 12 voting members and ensuring equality of representation for the electorate of CA members. He asked that the Electoral Commission should be transparent in its operation and finally raised concerns about the procedure for general meetings, which currently prevented amendments being put to the motions proposed at them. In reply, he was told that a working party chaired by the President had made some recommendations to address those, but it had been decided to take one step at a time.
Hugh Carlisle commended the provisions in the Hurlingham club rules and he and John Reddish pointed out other defects with the current constitution, which were noted.
The motion to amend the constitution was then put. The votes of those who had voted by post or on the website were added to those present who had not, giving a total of 489 in favour and 18 against, so it was overwhelmingly carried, with a turnout of about 10% of those eligible to vote.
John Bowcott, the Chairman of Council, has asked that alongside this report of the SGM we should record our thanks to those who have worked over nearly 3 years to research and develop the proposals that have now been endorsed by the membership. Such reforms had long been a gleam in the President's eye, but work to implement them began with a working party led by Strat Liddiard. They did all of the early interviewing and established the importance of separating the roles of Council and Management. This was followed by another working party chaired by Jonathan Isaacs. This group built on the earlier work and is responsible for the constitutional changes and the election process that will support the delivery of the new model of governance. We should be grateful to all those involved in this lengthy process.
Council met in the afternoon and decided that elections for the 12 voting members of the new Council should take place over the summer, with a view to it taking over after the AGM in October. Its success will depend critically on the quality of people elected to serve on it: the attributes expected of them are to be listed in the next edition of the Croquet Gazette. Equally important will be the ability of those appointed to the Executive Board and the working committees. Those willing to contribute to the administration of the sport need to decide where they can most usefully do so.
The points raised at the SGM were considered and it was agreed that further amendments to the Constitution should be proposed at the AGM to improve the procedures for general meetings.
Peter Death presented the accounts for 2018, which were duly adopted with thanks to him and David Boxell, the Independent Examiner. They showed that our funds had decreased by some £50,000 over the year, mainly due to the costs of employing a National Development Office and transitional costs associated with the expansion of our membership. A similar deficit is budgeted for this year and this is clearly not sustainable going forward.
More positively, some significant savings in printing and distribution costs have been made by Mark Suter, the CA Manager, and we received a legacy of £2846 from Alec Coleman.
It was agreed that the per-capita rate for club membership subscriptions should rise to £9 for small clubs and £14 for larger ones in 2020, which will be the last of the above inflation increases authorised by the 2015 SGM. Individual membership subscriptions will remain unchanged, but paper copies of the fixtures book will only be sent to members who pre-order one, at a cost of £5. Clubs will continue to receive a copy. Sending paper copies of the Croquet Gazette to Standard members was agreed to be unaffordable, so will cease at the end of this year, except as an introductory offer for new Standard members. Existing ones will be able to subscribe for paper copies at a cost of £10 a year.
The updated risk assessment presented by the Treasurer was generally accepted, with the rider that a business continuity plan was needed to mitigate some of the risks, particularly those associated with Information Technology. However, the main focus of the discussion was to formulate our reserves policy. It was generally accepted that current expenditure should be covered by current income, but it was reported that members held differing views as to whether it was appropriate to continue holding our current assets, or invest them to promote the future of the sport. It was agreed that this should be a matter for the new Council, after it had set strategic objectives against which to assess any proposals.
It was agreed to award the Council medal to Dave Kibble, primarily for his work on the website over many years, with the online fixtures book and tournament entry system as a notable achievement of considerable benefit to members.
At the end of the meeting, the President expressed his pleasure that his long term ambition of reforming the Council had been achieved, thanked those who had served the current one so loyally and looked forward to attending the first meeting of its successor.