Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Shape of Things to Come

Friday’s annual general meeting saw Scotland’s shinty clubs casting their votes in favour of the biggest change in the governance of their sport since the establishment of the Camanachd Association in 1893. Shinty has been revolutionised over the past three years with a summer playing season being established , the successful introduction of the “Game Plan” for the development of the sport and more recently Andrew Johnston being installed as full-time technical director.
With these changes in place, it had become apparent that the manner in which shinty has been historically governed was no longer responsive enough to meet the modern demands being made on the sport and so the first business of the evening effectively involved the 17 members of the existing Executive Council voting themselves out of office to be replaced by a nine man board of directors. Tied up with this was the dissolution of shinty’s 112 year old constitution and its replacement with a company structure limited by guarantee.
The new directorships , responsible for club and volunteer development, coaching, match officials, finance marketing and competitions , were also decided on the evening with John Mackenzie retaining his presidential position as head of the new board. Retired Nairn banker David Maclean picked up the post of finance director while Gaelic broadcaster Hugh Dan Maclennan brings vast experience to the marketing post and Donnie Mackenzie, with an extensive management background in social work, takes up the reins as club and volunteer director. Stewart Ferrier , Newtonmore, was appointed coaching director while senior referee John Macrae won the delegates vote to head the important Official’s committee. The most hotly contested battle was for the position of Competitions director which Fort William’s Richard Gall won in a four way contest with veteran shinty administrator Alastair Macintyre, Graham Bell of the Schools Camanachd and David MacMaster of the North Area Committee.
The first task for the new board will be to appoint a salaried chief executive officer as well as a full time administrator. The final post on the board-that of non-executive director with business knowledge has also to be filled, but the buzz is that the favoured man is George Fraser, Managing Director of shinty’s major sponsors Tulloch Ltd . That he has a fine shinty pedigree as a key member of the all conquering Newtonmore side of the 70s cannot harm his case.
The down side of the evening was that it marked the last AGM of the two men who have done so much to drive shinty’s modernising agenda forward. On top of Duncan Freshwater’s decision to leave his development post and not seek an appointment as the technical development manager, the sport is still coming to terms with General Manager Graham D’Arcy’s decision to quit at the end of October. While both men have personal reasons for moving on - D’Arcy is to move to London to be with his partner and family-their departure and that of south youth development officer Ally Rothe simply serves to underline how limited shinty is in its ability to provide avenues of career development that are common in bigger, more prosperous sports The hope is that with the new structure driving the required prosperity will come.

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