Dear Fellow Members,
Since I last wrote to you, the Government has announced further operational restrictions especially for hospitality venues and indoor sports. Fortunately, our excellent staff have been able to quickly adapt to ensure our facilities are COVID secure. Please can we all fully co-operate with the staff as they seek to ensure we comply with the new legal rules.
Strategy and Masterplan
The Board has met twice since my last letter in the Recorder. Our first meeting was our annual strategy session. This was particularly important this year in light of the impact of Covid-19. We reviewed progress on our five-year operational strategy (which runs up to 2024) and on our Development Masterplan 2035. We considered what changes were required to these, including an order of priorities. Our conclusion was that both our strategy and Masterplan remain valid and appropriate and the Board reaffirmed its commitment to both. There may well have to be further flexibility in terms of timing in the light of the virus, its impact on the economy, as well as the Club’s membership mix and finances. This will be considered when the Board decides the Club’s budget for 2021 and the long-term financial projections at our next meeting in October.
Tennis and Padel
We intend to proceed with the installation of the two padel tennis courts next year, for which planning permission was obtained earlier this year, and to look to replace the tennis Airhall on courts 12-14 which will have reached the end of its life after the coming winter season. We also aim to proceed with an application for planning permission for a second seasonal Airhall to cover courts 7-10 for six months. This will give us ten indoor courts during the winter, as it is clear that we will not obtain planning permission for a second ITC. Last winter’s wet weather caused extreme pressure on our six indoor courts and it is only right that we should try to accommodate the demand for indoor tennis from the 2000 Members who make up our tennis section. The Tennis Committee has been tasked to research which blend of all-weather court surfaces would best suit our Club in the future.
Preparatory work on Masterplan 2035
In October the Board will consider, with our professional advisers, what can be prudently included in next year’s budget by way of preparatory work on other aspects of the Masterplan, such as an Indoor Golf Centre, a new two-tier Sports Shop and remodelling the Club House.
All of these will be considered for what they can offer Members as a whole and not for the exclusive interest of one section. No commitments will be entered into without appropriate financing having been put in place and after appropriate consultation with Committees and Members. Click here for the updated Masterplan 2035.
Next year’s subscriptions
Against that backdrop and the wider economic picture, we have considered several important topics all of which have a financial impact on the Club.
First and foremost, we decided what the level of subscriptions should be for next year. I have written since lockdown in March that the Board will decide in September what, if anything, might be done for Members to recognise that for two months there was no use at all of our facilities and that there continues to be restrictions on the full use of these and the services our Club can offer. The Board has sought to strike a balance between (a) the cost to the Club of any recompense (b) the continuing need to be prudent in times of great uncertainty and (c) not jeopardising our ability to secure and enhance the long-term benefits of membership of one of London’s premier sports and social clubs.
Becoming a Member of a Club such as ours is a lifestyle choice made for the long-term. We are not a commercial club run for profit where shareholders or others may seek a financial return. There is only one pot of money at our Club. It is the one into which we all contribute by paying our subscriptions and from which we pay to keep all our Club’s facilities and grounds at the highest level of operation and presentation.
Against this background, the Board decided that:
◊ There will be no refund of subscriptions of any period in 2020, in whole or in part
◊ Membership subscriptions for 2021 will be frozen at this year’s amounts with no increase for inflation or increased running costs;
◊ Any unspent levy on Members’ cards will be carried forward to next year;
◊ And no levy will be invoiced to Members with their subscriptions for 2021;
Inflation in general is running at nearly 3% and it is expected to continue at that level in 2021. Inflation in relation to many of the materials used around the club, eg fertilisers, foodstuffs, pesticides and pool chemicals, is running at a higher rate.
The combined effect of these decisions is a reduction in the Club’s EBITDA of nearly £300,000 next year. The EBITDA is likely to be further depressed by lower than normal takings in Food and Beverage. We will also not be budgeting for any contribution from events in 2021. Management has already made savings by not filling staff vacancies and regrettably had to make some redundancies to reduce costs accordingly.
We believe as your Board that these steps are fair, proportionate and affordable. They are a one-off response to an unprecedented situation. We sincerely hope we can revert to normal arrangements for 2022 and beyond.
Many of us have enjoyed the pop-up refreshments in the Piazza and the catering in the gardens. In acknowledgement of the wishes of many Members, the Board has approved a scheme to provide a long-term continuation of this popular facility. It will include some protection against the weather in both places and the acquisition of a trailer to replace the one currently in the Piazza the rental of which expires at the end of October. Planning permission will be required, and we will seek to obtain this as quickly as possible.
Health and Safety on the 18th tee
We also approved expenditure to further reduce the risks of serious injury and damage being caused to residents of Fairacres from errant golf drives from the 18th tee. Previous attempts to do this in 2018 have only been partially successful. More radical steps are now required. We have been advised by our Health and Safety consultant about the principle of what needs to be done and the details will be approved by the Golf Committee. The Board has approved finance to be made available and the work will be carried out by the end of November.
The Board is very grateful for the support given by Members both in practical and financial terms as well as for the many messages of appreciation and encouragement received for the Club’s management of the re-opening since lockdown. With your support, we are confident about the Club’s future and I hope all Members will share that sentiment and look forward to our future together.