LET’S talk about money! It’s a subject that is dear to my heart, heck it’s a subject that’s dear to your hearts as well, come on admit it, it’s what gets us all motivated.
And the money I’m talking about was yours, though now, it doesn’t really belong to anyone, yet its there, unavailable, doing virtually nothing, earning very little interest and occasionally becomes a subject of much heated discussion.
The money that I refer to is the vast wodge of dosh that lingers in the bank accounts of a large number of clubs. Without putting an exact figure into the public domain, I know exactly how much money the club of which I am secretary has in the bank. It’s not a huge amount, but enough to make it worth banging me on the head if I had that amount in my back pocket. I also know how long it took us, as a club, to acquire that amount, because when the club was taken over by the present committee some six years ago, there was virtually nothing in the bank.
Now if we have accumulated that money in just six short years (five actually because 2001 was a no-goer due to foot and mouth), I shudder to think how much cash is sloshing around in bank accounts up and down the country of clubs that have been in existence for many, many years.
But the problem for virtually every club is that whilst the committee has ideas about how to spend the money, few actually do so because; well, because they fear the rainy day, or the unexpected insurance claim. You know I’m right, nobody dares touch it, just in case it’s needed one day.
To some extent that’s perfectly OK and it’s natural to be conservative. After all, it’s why clubs have committees; they are there to control wild spending, and unauthorised use of the money. Ideally of course, the money should be put to good use, and for this sport of ours, undoubtedly the best use would be to buy suitable land for trialing.
A few clubs have done exactly that. We all know that some clubs have land. Amongst others Scarborough have Low North Park, Sidcup have Canada Heights and Westmorland have Firbank and their most recent purchase near Witherslack. But there’s absolutely no way my club has anywhere near enough money to buy land. At the recent rate of earning, it would take us another thirty years to acquire enough to buy anything worth having, and by then, the cost of land will almost certainly have rocketed way out of our reach.
So what do we do with our few grand? It’s sad to have to say it, but almost certainly we will sit on it, just like every other club is doing. There is a sensible solution when folks say that a number of clubs in an area should merge their funds, then there may be enough to buy a piece of land should a suitable area come up for auction.
But the reality of life isn’t like that. Club A’s money belongs to them; Club B has money and they don’t want to “risk” it, whilst Club C has a niggling feud with Club A and would never even consider joining forces with them. Sad, but so very true. Even then, if they did all club together, imagine the arguments about who is going to run and when.
As already mentioned, Westmorland, one of my local clubs already have two decent pieces of land, and congrats to them for having the foresight to buy them. It’s no secret that Westmorland have been able to fund their purchases thanks to running three ultra-successful hillcimbs at Barbon Manor each year. However, they are in the minority and are very fortunate to have such a successful and long-term source of cash for the club.
And when I rode at their Lonsdale Trial two weeks ago, their most recent spend was very evident, for clerk of the course Andrew Bingley was riding a brand new Honda Fourtrax quad. At £4.2k plus VAT, it was an excellent purchase and made marking out the trial so much easier. It had been taxed for the road (and insured at great difficulty!) and if it’s not abused will last Westmorland 20 years or more.
The case for purchasing the machine was very strong. Westmorland run a significant number of trials each year and several of them are road based trials. Marking out any trial, but particularly a road trial is a big task. Dragging a big bag around on your back, full of flags, staple guns and everything else that’s needed is a tiresome task, and needs several lads to do it. With the quad, Bing was able to do the job virtually unaided (if he needed to) as he could carry most items on the two racks and with a small trailer, had more than enough room.
I’m not suggesting that all clubs need a quad. In fact many could perhaps borrow one from a friendly farmer, but Westmorland made a sensible purchase in my opinion and have contributed to the ease of running a trial. Finding lads to mark out is not always the easiest of tasks, but this way, it is certainly a lot more attractive.
So that at least was good use of club funds, but that doesn’t alter the fact that there are many thousands of pounds languishing in club coffers. They could be put to very good use, but inevitably the situation will remain exactly where it is now, and this column could be rewritten in five years time when I guess the facts will be essentially the same.