The March Council meeting resumed, again virtually, on 4th April.
Following e-mail discussion during the intervening week, it was agreed in principle to introduce an intermediate award, to fill the gap between Diplomas and the Council Medal. Further thought will be given to the name of the new award and the tangible form it should take.
Discussion then resumed on the recommendations of the Marketing and Communications working group's report, to decide policy in this area. Two of them had been agreed before the meeting adjourned: introducing a newsletter and combining the Marketing and Publishing Committees. To help prioritise the rest Council members had been asked to complete a score sheet, in which they were given 20 points to allocate between the recommendations that they would most like to see work start on now.
Initiatives to raise money came top of the list, both to plug the gap in our current finances (which existed even before Coronavirus struck) and to provide resources for promoting and developing the sport: the best ways to do that will be the subject of a subsequent review. It was agreed that contracting people to attract sponsorship and advertising, through a variety of media, on a commission basis was likely to be the most productive and lowest risk way forward. The Executive Board was asked to progress this, through its Marketing Committee.
A programme to attract younger players also scored highly, but it was agreed that this needed a three-year timescale to implement, particularly given the disruption to this season, though planning for it should start now. Referring back to the previous discussion, such a programme might be attractive to a sponsor as targetting a specific segment of their market.
The next items covered publicity and public relations. The feeling was that we would have more success with this at a local or regional level than nationally, so it was agreed to try and engage with the Federations, offering training and support, for this. Eugene Chang will set up a group to do this and elected members of Council were asked to try and find what expertise was already available in their region.
There is already a project underway to re-style the CA's website, but for a year or more there has been no-one dedicated to managing its content. Council was clear that providing it must remain the responsibility of the individual committees, as only they had the specialist knowledge of the relevant areas, but someone was needed to coordinate and drive this work. The task could be eased by moving some of the more detailed material away from the immediately accessible part of the site to a separate "knowledge base". Attempts to find someone to do so on a voluntary basis had been unsuccessful, so it was agreed that some remuneration should be given, ideally for a post with wider responsibilities. A group chaired by Samir Patel was asked to come up with a detailed proposal for this, within the next three weeks.
Attention then turned to the recommendations of the Efficiency working group. Ian Cobbold introduced its report by noting that some of its recommendations were already in hand, or duplicated those from the other reports. There remained, however, a need to encourage more people to volunteer to help run the sport; to review the role of and relationship with the Federations; and to benchmark what the CA itself tried to do against the governing bodies of other sports. It had already been discovered that administration in other croquet playing countries is more devolved.
With regard to volunteering, it was noted that Sport England's Club Matters programme, which Dave Gunn had successfully used, contained valuable material about managing and encouraging those willing to help. There was clearly a chicken and egg situation, in that an ethos of productive working would attract new people in a virtuous circle, whereas a committee that appeared moribund would deter new blood. Accountability and Key Performance Indicators were required, but with a light enough touch that people got some relief from their day jobs. It was noted that the Executive Board was looking to improve communications and accountability in line with the recommendations and it will report back when it has developed its plan.
With lunch beckoning, it was agreed to adjourn the meeting again until 18th April, when the Technology group's report would be considered.