Thursday, 12 March 2020

Clubs consider holding back fees to Scottish Golf over ‘railroading’ claims

By Martin Dempster  

Scottish Golf is facing a potential revolt by some of its member clubs who are threatening to hold back affiliation fees because they feel they are being “railroaded” by the governing body.
The source of their discontent is a software system which is supposed to simplify golf clubs’ tee booking, competition scoring, handicapping and other administration.

But the Venue Management System (VMS) has been given the thumbs down by some clubs in the Lothians, the biggest of the 16 men’s area associations in Scotland.

The introduction of the VMS was one of the pillars of Scottish Golf’s campaign in 2018 to increase affiliation fees, with the promise that the system would eventually remove the need for clubs to have multiple software packages. Resistance to the system comes as the 
governing body prepares to hold its annual meeting in Stirling this weekend

A show of hands on the possibility of blocking the payment of affiliation fees resulted in a resounding ‘yes’ among the club delegates at the recent Lothians Golf Association agm. As a result, Lothians GA secretary David Doig has written to Scottish Golf Limited (SGL) to outline the unrest among some clubs and determine what the implications would be if affiliation fees for this year were held back.

“There is a fairly strong feeling that clubs are being railroaded by SGL in their attempts to initiate their VMS system, and there was a fairly healthy discussion on two fronts,” said Doig of the Lothians meeting at Newbattle Golf Club. “Firstly, there are concerns that the CDH (Central Database of Handicaps) system is currently not providing an adequate service for clubs with many anomalies being detected by clubs at this time.

“The second is that the SGL’s VMS system appears to be providing many difficulties for clubs who are not adopting the VMS, which restricts various operations that they previously enjoyed with the old system. The clubs are also concerned that SGL have taken decisions recently without the prior knowledge of clubs, eg the closing down of the CDH for a period, the launch of a new website etc.

“On the basis of this some clubs asked the question of what the implications would be if they chose to withhold their annual subscriptions for a period until such time SGL listen and act on what clubs want.”

The Scotsman understands one delegate at the Lothians meeting claimed that Scottish Golf was “not interested in helping” a club that had not signed up for the new VMS system while another said a club had “received next to no help with many questions”.

“What I got from the meeting is that most clubs are not happy with Scottish Golf and their methods of pushing clubs into a corner to either switch to their systems or be ignored,” said one club manager. “The mood in the room at the Lothians agm was very ‘anti-Scottish Golf’ and clubs are now seriously asking what are we getting for our affiliation fees – money that many struggling clubs could put to better use.”

Iain Forsyth, Scottish Golf’s chief commercial officer, has been leading a team delivering VMS demos around the country and said that he had been unaware of any unrest among Lothians clubs at a demo to more than 50 people in Edinburgh last month, after which clubs had actually signed up for the new system.

“Clubs are certainly not being railroaded into VMS,” he said. “Much consideration has been given in the design process to ensure that a club not using VMS is not disadvantaged in anyway.

“We recently added a newly-designed function to our website allowing clubs to upload their open competitions. This not only gives clubs exposure on the SGL website, but also all app users, iPads, and any club using a VMS website. It also makes it easy for the golfer to enter the competition through the website. This was only launched on 3 March and we already have 192 competitions uploaded, but, interestingly, more non VMS clubs have used this facility [16 non VMS clubs and 14 VMS clubs].”