The March Council meeting resumed, for its 3rd and final session, on 18th April.
While people were connecting, Peter Nelson reported that the Sidmouth Club had been given a grant of £10,000 from their local Council, under the Coronavirus Small Business Grant Fund, by virtue of having a rateable value. The CA's task force will get further details and publicise this to other clubs.
Jonathan Isaacs then called the meeting to order and asked Ian Vincent to present the recommendations of the Technology working group's report. He thanked those who had worked on it and emphasised that developments in this area were limited not only by financial considerations, but more significantly by the availability of suitably skilled members able and willing to undertake, and subsequently support, them. In some cases hard choices would have to be made between bespoke software, which was better tailored to our requirements, but needed more effort to develop and support it, and generic alternatives.
Work was already progressing on re-styling the website and it was agreed that a detailed proposal for hosting it should be developed. It was also agreed that a bulk e-mailing facility should be a priority, but providing a forum for discussion by members could be deferred, provided that there was no contentious business at this year's AGM. Initiatives to improve branding were also deferred until the higher priority items had been implemented. It was agreed that Video Streaming should continue to be developed, with a review after three years.
Clubs would be consulted to see whether they felt it worth putting the effort into supporting use of the CA membership database to store their own membership records (though using it to take subscription payments would be a further step, which may have financial regulatory implications). On the other hand, it was agreed that Clubs should be supported to update their own entries in the fixtures book. As an aside, a wider review of how information about tournaments should be made available would be instigated at the next meeting.
A few projects, such as developing and supporting an electronic handicap card, tournament management and lawn booking systems, attracted some support, but were left on the table for the time being unless someone came forward to undertake them.
It was agreed that usage of services like Trello and Google Docs should ideally be done under accounts that were in the name of the CA, rather than personal ones. Finally, use of social media was felt to be important, but was considered to be more a matter of content than technology and hence should be a responsibility of the Marketing Committee.
After a brief refreshment break, discussion turned to the question of the legal status of the CA. The Chairman reminded the meeting that this was not a new issue, having been raised in 2007, 2012 and again last year, but the Coronavirus pandemic and financial problems for an overseas association had re-focussed attention on it. Brian Havill had circulated two papers, which stated that any change would require significant effort, and possibly expense, in the short term (though the change could be staggered, rather than requiring a big bang approach), but the additional ongoing regulatory burden would be relatively small. The choice was between straight forward incorporation, in which case he felt the way ahead was clear, or one of two forms of incorporation with charitable status. His suggestion of the name "Croquet England" as (part of) the legal name of any new entity was agreed, though our public persona would continue to be "The Croquet Association", as full re-branding would be a major undertaking and opinions varied as its desirability. The Secretary and Treasurer were asked to develop a firm proposal, taking advice as they felt necessary, with a view to putting something to the 2021 AGM.
Amendments to the Standing Orders and Practice Book were approved, to enact the changes agreed at the January meeting to designate chairmen, to provide an orderly succession, before they were formally elected and took up office. Jonathan Isaacs agreed to requests that he continue as Chairman of Council for a further year: his term on Council ends in October 2021. Patricia Duke-Cox, however, said that she would prefer to step down as Vice-Chairman, due to other commitments, and Council reluctantly noted her request. An Appointments Committee, headed by the President, was formed to propose a succession plan, and make other nominations.
Ian Burridge then presented a paper which explained the apparent inconsistencies in membership data obtained from various sources, and suggested that the term "Eligible Individuals" should be coined to identify the group of club members who were eligible for Standard Membership of the CA, but had not applied for it (either consciously or by default). It was agreed that further steps should be taken to encourage them to do so, and that membership policy should be the next strategy to be developed by Council.
After a brief discussion on communications policy, the subject was referred to the Efficiency working party, with a couple of other housekeeping items.
The marathon March meeting finally closed at 12.20. Sadly we were unable to head off to the lawns, but maybe we missed a trick by not suggesting an open gardens scheme as an alternative form of competition!