Report of March Council Meeting
Council met on 28th March, with the implications of Coronavirus for the croquet community very much on its mind, in addition to its anticipated agenda. The intention to make more use of online conferencing, which was noted at the end of the report of the January meeting, was fully realised, as the meeting took place entirely by means of a Zoom videoconference. It seemed to proceed well, once we had got the hang of signalling that we wished to speak and then un-muting ourselves!
Jonathan Isaacs opened the meeting by welcoming Eugene Chang, who he had invited to present a couple of the items and provide any needed technical assistance, and saying farewell to Peter Death, who was handing over to Ian Burridge as Hon. Treasurer. We hope to be able to give Peter a more sociable send-off once normality returns.
Council and the Executive Board had previously agreed by e-mail to establish a joint Coronavirus Task Force to respond to the developing situation. Its members are Jonathan Isaacs, Ian Burridge, Ian Vincent, Mark Suter and Roger Staples and they have been publishing updates and a summary of the CA's response on the website. Current indications are that relatively few clubs are in immediate financial trouble, but are likely to suffer some loss of membership and be unable to recruit. Discussion at this meeting therefore focussed on the situation that clubs and the CA might face next year. It was agreed to get predictions from clubs as to their likely membership and subscription income this year to enable us to design a scheme for discounting subscriptions in 2021.
An interim recommendation of the group set up to review use of technology by the CA was that the website should be re-styled, particularly to make it more useable on mobile devices. Dave Kibble reported on the progress made by the team undertaking this, which had initially been rapid but had recently stalled due to higher priority work to enhance the Tournament Entry System to handle mass cancellations/postponements, withdrawals and refunds.
Peter Death presented his last set of accounts, for 2019, which had been examined and were approved for submission to the AGM. Turning to 2020, he thanked the Office staff for their considerable assistance in coping with the extra workload of entry fee refunds and reported that our cash flow remained strong. He commented that he was handing over in "interesting times" and wished his successor and colleagues on Council and the Executive Board well.
Changes to the CA's Safeguarding Policy were approved subject to drafting changes and will be published on the website and promulgated to clubs, with corresponding recommendations to their policies, in due course.
A complaint about impersonation in public comment on live streaming of the WCF AC World Championship crystallised concerns by the President about liability for defamation in such circumstances. This incident had been investigated and resolved with an apology and reprimand, so discussion focussed on prevention. It was accepted that comments were inevitable with social media, but it possible to exercise greater control over them if, as the CA was doing, we retained responsibility for streaming rather than relinquishing it to commercial platforms. Guidelines were agreed which will published in the form of a policy.
Eugene Chang then presented the results of the club survey that he had conducted at the end of last year, which usefully complemented the quinquennial surveys of individual players that have been undertaken by Kevin Carter. Headline findings were:
- Most clubs were at 60-70% capacity (25 members/lawn)
- GC to AC conversion rates were low, despite several approaches being tried.
- Many clubs said they supported both forms of the game, but fewer played both actively.
- More referees were needed and 20% of clubs didn't have a handicapper.
- There appeared to be a North-South divide in tournament participation rates, but this may reflect travel times and the amount of federation play.
- Free-text comments had been recorded and provided useful feedback on what the CA was and should be doing.
Finally, Samir Patel introduced the interim reports of the three working groups set up after the January meeting to recommend policy in the areas of Marketing, Efficency and Technology. Two of the Marketing recommendations, that newsletters should be published electronically between issues of the Croquet Gazette, and that the Publishing and Marketing Committees should be combined, were agreed in principle, but at that point the meeting was adjourned for a week, having filled the time scheduled for it.