Council met at the Victory Services Club, rather than Hurlingham, as it was closer to the mainline railway stations. It welcomed Ian Burridge, who is taking over from Peter Death as Hon. Treasurer at the end of March. Ian had previously been on Council, some 25 years ago, and commented positively afterwards that the meeting was both smaller and considerably less formal than in those days.
The first part of the meeting concentrated on Council's role of scrutinising the Executive Board, hearing reports from the Officers and its Chairman, Roger Staples.
The provisional management accounts showed a deficit of £36.5K for the year, though about a third of that would be charged to the development fund, being the remaining cost of employing a National Development Officer for two years. Individual subscriptions were down by 5%, but those from clubs had increased by 8%. Shop sales recovered after the poor year in 2018, but the gross profit is still well below 2017. Staff costs were within budget, despite a considerable turnover during the year. Almost £50K of tournament income was received on behalf of clubs through the online entry system. This is a significant benefit to clubs as the CA picks up the transaction costs.
The budget for 2020 anticipates another deficit, of the order of £30K, but it was agreed to aim to reduce that if possible this year, with a view to breaking even in future years. Additional income and possibly further cost reductions will be needed to achieve this. Membership subscriptions are currently our major source of income and Council requested the Executive Board to report and analyse trends in them, to provide a baseline for considering policy in this area.
Clearly one way of increasing membership income is to increase the number of players, which is part of the overall goal that the new Council agreed at its first meeting. Communication with clubs through Federations was felt to be a key to this, to encourage take-up of initiatives such as "Croquet Matters", previous proposals to improve recruitment and new suggestions that may arise from the recent club survey. Some Federations had co-opted Council members onto their committees and this practice is to be encouraged to improve communication flow.
Council welcomed the proposal that the process of identifying people to chair and serve on committees should be started much earlier in the year than hitherto, to give more time both to find good people and for them to prepare for office.
It was felt that the Executive Board had made a good impression in managing the CA's day to day business, but face greater challenges when faced with implementing Council's new policy initiatives. The first of these will be to consider and, if thought appropriate, implement the suggestions in a review of refereeing, conducted in response to the concerns about the availability of championship referees raised at the AGM.
The results of the CA survey completed in December are being analysed and Eugene Chang has been invited to make a full presentation at the March Council meeting.
Since the October meeting, it had been decided that the next priority areas for more in-depth strategy review were marketing, efficiency and technology. Working Groups have been created, consisting of Council and Executive Board members, together with other experts in their respective fields. These Working Groups are being coordinated by a Steering Group chaired by Samir Patel. The Steering Group has been created due to considerable areas of overlap. Their brief is to develop the work already done by Council and propose strategies covering those areas of the CA's activities. Their initial reports have been requested for the Council meeting being held at the end of March
Finally, it was agreed to follow the same pattern of face-to-face meetings next year: following the AGM on 17th October 2020 and on 30th January and 27th March 2021. There will be more contact between Council members during the year, using an e-mail group and online conferencing.