2019 RPRA LOSSES?

Happy New Year to you all.

2019 RPRA LOSSES £130,000.00?

Well another year has been and gone and the finances of the RPRA are getting worse. In 2018 the balance sheet of the RPRA showed a loss of £55,773  and now in 2019 the draft balance sheet of the RPRA shows a loss of £130,212. Over the years the RPRA has combined the accounts of the British Homing World with the RPRA accounts in order to show a profit, unfortunately this year the British Homing World has also shown a loss. Where do we go from here?

I am wondering if the RPRA Council are hoping that with the sale of The Reddings they will then be able to recoup all their losses and then carry on as usual without redressing the issues that caused these losses. The main problem is the running of the RPRA but it is also the apathy that exists within the fancy who leave them to it.

I have put together some snippets of articles from my computer that have been printed in The Racing Pigeon to show some of the, practices and money wasted, in my opinion, by the RPRA.

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RP dated 8th March 2019

I will now get on to the situation at the RPRA regarding the 30p surcharge on the NWHU rings. The people in the RPRA who have advocated this action have to me never asked why their own members decided to purchase their rings from other organisations. Let me tell you what happened. In 2010 the RPRA brought out a ring with 2 lugs on it known as combi-rings to take the ETS. These lugs were dangerous to the pigeons with the RSPB and the RSPCA I believe condemning them and many fanciers writing to both The RP and the BHW saying that the sharp edges were catching the babies and injuring them and also the lugs were getting caught on the hessien in the baskets injuring the pigeons legs. As I do not have ETS I applied to join the NWHU so that I could purchase my rings which I have done ever since. I must point out at this stage that some of the comments put out by the RPRA in relation to the NWHU not reporting strays I find outrageous as I and many of my friends have never had any problems with this Union.

I have always found the NWHU to be very helpful and obliging at all times. In 2011 the RPRA told us we could file off the lugs if we wanted to (which was against RPRA ring rules), as the rules state that rings must not be tampered with. Can you imagine me attempting to file down 100 rings which I definitely would not do as it is against their own RPRA rules. Bearing in mind gentlemen at that time I think about 80% of fanciers were not on ETS. I and others have not had an apology from the RPRA or been compensated for being forced to join another Union in order to purchase my rings. The new directive states with effect from 22nd February 2019 all rings issued by the NWHU raced or shown under RPRA rules have to be registered by 1st April. This decision was taken by RPRA Council and a 30p per ring registration fee to be paid. I also believe this action is classed as Restrictive Practice and that should the NWHU decide to persue action against the RPRA (which I believe they may) the RPRA could lose the day and have to pay compensation plus legal costs which could be a lot of our money once again wasted on unnecessary legal fees. This money provided by us through our annual membership fees.

RP 15th March 2019

When I went on to the RPRA website I found a notification of the ring surcharge to be paid by 1st April. Many of my fellow fanciers asked me ‘What April, what year?’. Subsequently the next time I went on to the RPRA website the notification had been extended to include 2019 YB’s to be registered by July. With regard to the complaints that they claim to have received that the NWHU are not repatriating pigeons I would very much like to see the evidence concerning this as my experience with the NWHU is very different. The RPRA have made a big thing about the repatriation of pigeons but to my knowledge all they do is notify the finder and owner of the pigeon and it is left to the owner to repatriate the pigeon. I would estimate that the number of pigeons that the RPRA repatriates is in fact very, very small. A fancier friend who has quite a few foreign rung pigeons has told me that he will have to pay £2 per bird to register them but when he contacted the RPRA was told that for his payment of £2 all he will receive from the RPRA is the name of the foreign union he must contact with regard to any of his missing foreign rung birds.

I recall that after a democratic vote to return the ‘Maquis Dicken’ medal to its’ rightful owners, the Cope family, the result was 19 for, 6 against, 2 undecided and 1 no contact, but the medal was never returned. This also reminds me of when there was a vote regarding the introduction of ETS systems which was rejected and the late Frank Tasker at the Council meeting telephoned me and said ‘..well you’ve got your way its’ been rejected again’ and then some hours later he phoned to say it had been accepted under the disability act. I wonder how many other times this has happened! I would also like to know just why we have to buy rings with the FCI logo which are more expensive when I should think many fanciers, I estimate as many as at least 90%, do not take part in International races, will never enter International races and like myself have no interest in the International races. We are, in my opinion, being victimised at a time when on reading the obituary columns in the fancy press on average of up to 10 people a week, that could be as many as up to 500 people a year connected to the sport are dying. This at a time when the RPRA have taken on someone at approximately £30,000 per annum + car + expenses to promote the sport. Is this future of the sport officer going to encourage up to 500 people a year to take up the sport? I think not! So why is the RPRA spending our money in this way when they had the perfect publicity opportunity which would have reflected so well on the sport by giving back the ‘Maquis Dicken’ medal to the Cope family.

RP 17th March 2019

With regard to the above I have a corrections to make, first I would like to thank Russell Bradford, the BICC Treasurer, who emailed me to inform me that the numbers of fanciers sending to International races are no more than 2% NOT 10% as I estimated and he has the figures to prove it which means 98% of fanciers do not need the FCI logo on their rings. Is this ‘Déjà vu’ because in 2010 RPRA members were forced to purchase the dangerous Combi rings with the lugs on and now in 2019 RPRA members are again being forced to purchase rings this time with the FCI logo at extra cost and which they do not need. In fact, an elderly gentleman told me his 20 rings had arrived with smudges on them but when I suggested he look at them through a magnifying glass he realised the smudges were actually the FCI logo!

I was pleased to read a full page article in The Racing Pigeon dated 15th March, page 49, written by Mr Terry Phifer, President of the NWHU entitled ‘For the Fancier by the Fancier – NWHU’. I recommend that you read the article as it is set out in a very gentlemanly fashion and includes a meeting he had with representatives of the RPRA at the Blackpool Show when they had a full and frank discussion regarding the issues between the two organisations. I hope that further discussions continue.

RP 5th April 2019

As I said in my letter to the editor of the British Homing World ‘What on earth has gone wrong with the RPRA over the past 10 years?’. With membership according to the RPRA AGM report decreasing by 4.2% in 2018 compared to 2017 which is consistent with reductions in previous years the income from membership fees must also be decreasing by 4.2% and yet the RPRA  are still spending money in an attempt to recoup these losses. With regard to the new development officer the report said that ‘…it’s sad that the project has come in for criticism from some quarters without them really understanding what it is about or giving it a chance – but that’s the pigeon sport for you!’ I can understand the need to educate young people about the sport and the School lofts but are these young people going home and asking their parents for a pigeon loft and pigeons which for a young family would be too expensive or do their parents already race pigeons. I personally think that people who have taken early retirement and need a hobby and could afford it would be better targeted in the short term. I also read that the RPRA have procured the services of a professional PR company securing over £700k of publicity for just  £9k of the RPRA members money! I recently did an interview with Jeremy Kyle on the radio and it didn’t cost the RPRA a penny, at least I didn’t get paid for it!

In the BHW 22nd March 2019 in the article’ The Fellside Way News with Glenny’ about the new registration fee for NWHU rings which I totally agree with Glenny, the reply by the RPRA CEO says and I quote “Just to clarify that the reason this solely applies to the NWHU and not any other union is due to the fact that the complaints received by the RPRA during 2018 related to NWHU rung strays and not any other unions”. I cannot see that no other union has strays reported, after all the RPRA is the biggest covering the whole of the country.

With regard to life rings I have been informed that the NWHU and other unions purchase their rings for £8.40p per 1,000 cheaper than the RPRA and I was told by, at that time,  a General Manager several years ago that the RPRA purchased 900,000 rings which means they could have saved £7,560 by purchasing the other rings for similar quality.

Some years ago the RPRA spent about £10,000 on legal & professional fees to their solicitors to have all the Rules of the Association updated so why are the RPRA ignoring the findings of the report. One that springs to mind is the introduction of ETS with the Disability Act quoted as a reason we must have it when their own solicitors wrote to the RPRA President telling him that the RPRA could not be challenged should anyone attempt to sue them as racing pigeons are classed as a hobby and not a sport. This letter was withheld from Council before the vote was taken and the then President resigned.

Another Rule that was broken was Rule 137 where if you advertised a clearance sale you could not race for three years which saw a partnership still racing after their sale. This rule was later rescinded. Another instance of Rules 117 & 118 being broken was when a fancier reported to the RPRA that one of his pigeons was being raced by a fancier and as he had not given the pigeon to them he wanted it returned to which they refused. It was finally put before the RPRA Council meeting and the majority found in the fanciers favour but the penalty for being in breach of the Rules was a reprimand on the basis of ‘Just Cause’. Is there such a thing in law for withholding another persons property or can anyone race another persons pigeon and quote “Just Cause”.

Going back to the financial position of the RPRA, several years ago they commissioned a Report by Hall Associates Europe to look at ways the RPRA can function better with less costs. I believe the money spent on this Report and Recommendations was in the region of £18,000 and the only item that I can see to be acted upon was the change of name of the General Manager to that of Chief Executive Officer with it seems no reduction of staff or Councillors as recommended in the Report. Bearing in mind the salaries bill for the RPRA and BHW is over £500,000 including NIC and Pensions per annum, with the decline in membership how much longer will they be able to function?

RP 12th April 2019

On reading the RPRA Annual General Meeting Report in the BHW 1st March 2019 I notice that the CEO has been authorised to purchase ‘data recorders’ for different types of transport. By law all lorries have taco graphs, so just what data will be recorded, what benefit will there be to the fanciers and why are the RPRA spending this money that they can ill afford? In 2018 the RPRA made a loss of close on £60,000.00p included in this on the books is an £11,000 loss on the Liverpool Show which I suggest could mean an overall loss of closer to £15,000 and yet they have already booked the Liverpool show for November 2019.

RP 19th April 2019

This brings me on to the ring issue which has been a bone of contention to me for some time, ever since the combi-rings saga. As I have previously reported we   know that the RPRA could have saved £8.60 per 1,000 by purchasing the same better quality rings that the NWHU and other Unions do but I have since found out that in 2017 nearly 100,000 unsold life rings and show rings had to be destroyed if this is correct. I estimate that there is a minimum profit of 20p per ring after postage etc., I wonder how many were unsold in 2018? Please let me know.

On now to the Federation Colombophile Internationale or the FCI logo on the life rings in which the RPRA has ½ vote and the NEHU has ½ vote, so if the two organisations do not agree on any matter then we will have no say in anything, our vote will not count. I note that in the RPRA AGM report it was decided that the CEO write to the German, Dutch NPO, Belgium KBDB and France FCF Organisations to ask them to re-join the Western European Confederation. Can anyone tell me why they left? With only about 2% of fanciers in the U.K entering International races this to me is a complete waste of time and money with no benefit to the ordinary fancier at all.

The RPRA have delivered a report on the Reddings House Committee advising that it would not be marketed with a second agent due to the fact that if two agents were marketing the same property they would increase the fee from 1.5% to 2.5%. In my experience with a high value site and planning permission that’s not the case. Time should be taken to manage the sale of The Reddings and make sure we have open and transparent bids for the Council to consider and sell to the highest bidder so that the money raised can be invested in a freehold premises to secure the future of the RPRA and the BHW and RPRA could function in just one property which makes good business sense.

RP 26th April 2019

Recently an emergency meeting of Council was called as some Councillors had heard that The Reddings was set to be sold without a full meeting of Council to approve it. I understand the property including Selby House and the large amount of land to the rear is being marketed for £650,000. The Reddings is a unique freehold property in an up-market residential area and I personally feel that it should be renovated to a high standard and the staff put into portable offices on the site whilst the work is being completed and then if too big for the RPRA then part let to provide an income. Looking at the property from a developers’ point of view I know that in such a good area they would hold on to the freehold of the land and I wonder if the RPRA will be able to purchase another freehold property in the area or if they would have to settle for a leasehold property. If anyone is interested, which I think they should be as this high value property is owned by the members of the RPRA, then they can go on to Google search and put in The Reddings and the post code GL51 6RL and see it for themselves.

RP 3rd May 2019

Regarding my remarks concerning the sale of ‘The Reddings’ last week many have contacted me to ask why the RPRA had not applied for outline planning permission for the site before selling it. As a retired developer you may recall I suggested this to the then General Manager Stuart Wardrop that it was the best way to proceed. At that time I did suggest to the GM that the rear to the site should be cleared and a local Architect brought in to design a development in keeping with the Local Authority planning requirements. I have since been informed that the site was cleared, I am told at a cost of around £10,000, but I believe that no Local Architect was retained or any proper plans drawn up or submitted. It looks to me that the property may be sold without its full potential value being realised. Why?

RP 10th May 2019

It was a pleasure to finally read a letter to the Editor in the BHW from Dave Brown, a Furness federation Official also with 23 signatures (more can be provided if needed) regarding the NWHU registration ring fee after being informed in previous weeks that no letters regarding this had been received. The reply from the RPRA CEO reminded me of when I was in business and needed clarification of a point from the clerk of a Council I received a letter in reply that was several pages long but a short yes or no would have been sufficient.

With regard to staffing at the Reddings he quotes RPRA increased costs over 15 years between 2004 to 2018 in percentages in real terms which means nothing to the ordinary fancier and then summarises what the RPRA provides to the fancier in comparison to the NWHU. Over the past 15 years the huge advances in technology have meant that most of the services which the RPRA provides can be carried out over the internet or by email. By the way do the other Unions such as the NEHU, SHU, WHU & IHU use the RPRA services as well? If so why are they not penalised with the 30p registration fee?

The British Homing World Show of the Year at Blackpool I am aware was set up by a group of volunteers to support charitable causes but whilst I applaud volunteers doing charitable work I cannot find any charity registration number anywhere. I have many times asked for a balance sheet to show the income generated from the public going through the doors and money paid by stallholders and auctioneers for space and the expenses paid out to no avail.

With regard to ferry crossings I can recall the late George Gooch of the then Catteralls Transport telling me that once at the ferry terminal in Portsmouth with 14 lorries there were animal rights people protesting about the transportation of live animals to France and the police asked George to move the lorries into a corner out of the way of the demonstrators. Instead George asked the police to bring him two of the leaders of the protest so that he could show them just how the pigeons are fed and watered and looked after. Once shown the protesters were satisfied and he did not have any problem with them after that. The animal rights movement are not just the great unwashed as some see them they are very highly organised just like the climate change activists and racing pigeons are the least of their concerns.

Liverpool Show mid morning.

RP 15th December 2019

Once again the shortfall in the business Management of the RPRA has come to my attention and over some period of time the money, in my opinion, wasted just goes on and on. In my opinion if the RPRA was run as a commercial business it would have gone bust many years ago. For example in 2001 there were 44,635 RPRA members and by 2010 this had dropped to 29,412 so taking those figures I estimate that in 2020 we will probably have only between 10,000 – 12,000 members with a considerable loss of revenue yet over that period of time money has been wasted or badly appropriated. The latest failure over the past two years is the ‘New Liverpool Show’ which in its first year it was estimated that there was an up to £11,000 loss. Instead of the RPRA taking the view it was a ‘white elephant’ and abandoning it in 2018, they continued it in 2019.  I have been told that only 283 people went through the doors and it was a catastrophic loss with trade stands not turning up even though offered free pitch stands as they had previously lost a lot of money the year before. Taking all this into consideration it was suggested at a Council meeting that they carry on at Liverpool and it would take 3-5 years to bed in! That could mean the RPRA losing up to £50,000 in total. Liverpool is in the heart of the North West Homing Union area and can the senior Councillors not see that fanciers maybe boycotting this show. It seems to me they should respect and work with other Unions for the benefit of the sport in general.

As you can see from the above articles the RPRA are spending money they do not have. Fanciers are now being charged with a £2 extra charge for insurance that most fanciers and clubs do not need.

Some might say ‘What can we do Mr Woodhouse?’ Well I will tell you.

Whilst in business I had to make many hard decisions to keep my Company and also other Companies in business, so this is what I would do.

First I would look at staff numbers which I know would be hard to do but with the decline in membership from 44,631 members in 2001 to I estimate 10,000 – 12,000 members in 2020 and also the advances in technology the number of staff must be reduced by 40% over the next two years. The Reddings must be sold and the RPRA and British Homing World moved into one premises thus immediately reducing running costs, lighting, heat, rates etc. The British Homing World staff should consist of Editor, Assistant Editor and the number of staff according to the readership. The RPRA staff should consist of a Manager, Assistant Manager, Company Secretary and the minimum office staff. Should the need arise office staff from either section would be able to help each other out.

I hope fanciers will read the above article and then they must make up their own mind.

That’s all for this week.

Woodo!

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