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What is happening at the Vintage Motor Cycle Club Ltd?  -  18-06-20

These are facts. I have no time for rumour or speculation.

At the beginning of the Covid outbreak, the Chairman formed a sub-board of directors, called something like the Covid Emergency Committee. He was on this board as were four or five selected directors. Other directors were left out and they were largely ones that had disagreed with him in the past. This information comes partly from two of these disaffected directors, I hear today that a third director has submitted his resignation.

In addition, the clubs financial projections for this year were to run a £50k deficit. However, over the past months the Footman James commission has been lost as has the Bonhams sponsorship, so the deficit rose to approximately £100k. The loss of these two sources of income is not really a surprise and has been on the cards and reducing over the past years, it is not the fault of the current board or anyone else but should have been foreseen in setting budgets.

The Covid Emergency Committee decided that radical steps needed to be taken justified by the deteriorating financial position and driven by a deeply held view that Allen House and the centralised club was not operating in a way they wished. They came up with a plan which they pushed through the full board by outvoting the residual directors who are not on the special committee.
The plan is in three parts.

1. Reduction of Allen house staff costs by entering a restructuring phase with associated redundancies. This was presented to the staff last week and has been followed up with individuals. The outcome is that this has created a lack of trust by the staff in the directors and most of them have opted to go. I am told the date is probably by the end of July.
I believe that the new staff structure will consist of a marketing person, recently appointed. an operations manager and an accountant and maybe one other in the office. In addition the library will be staffed by one person on a zero hours contract and presumably volunteers. How club services from the library and dating for registration retention by DVLA will take place if the staff are not there to do it is anyone’s guess. The library will then go into a fundamental review over the next two years. I do not know the function of such a review as it has not been stated.

2. All national events run from Allen house will cease and be handed over to groups of section volunteers. I believe this will happen from now, starting with next year's events. Training Days, Relay rally, Banbury run and Festival. Someone is going to have to organise and deliver these from the section level or they will not be put on. A loss of such events in my view will be yet another loss of member service and promotion. So could easily impact upon membership.

3. To gain extra income by establishing a 1-million-pound investment sum to be handled by a third-party investment company. Currently the club has £780K in cash at the bank, this includes the Cobbing legacy. To raise the remainder (£220K), the proposal is to sell off some assets in the form of motorcycles and duplicate library items. My comments here are. When I was last involved, we looked at a £400k investment fund and were advised by a specialist company that double figure returns would only be likely if you were in it long term, minimum 10 years. Annual management fees were then 10 to 12K for such a fund regardless of performance. Secondly, to raise £220k at least one of the two main assets would have to be sold, i.e. The Dreadnought or the Brough Superior. All the other machines put together would not raise the sum required.

I am not going to comment on the wisdom of this approach, other than to say that it seems to me that the club as it is currently known and recognised would be changed beyond recognition, with a serious risk to membership numbers and the main annual income stream. There will also be an unreasonable demand for volunteer involvement, probably from the Midlands locale. In the past this has not been easy to establish and would certainly threaten the success of any event run like this.
My main issue is with secrecy, in the words of one director the club is now, "Secret Squirrel". As you all know it is your club, you are all shareholders, so talk about it, take a view, and decide where you stand.

All the best.
Pat Robothom


Response to P. Robotham 18-06-20

(What is happening at the VMCC ?)

Pat, Good Morning,

Thank you for your communiqué with which I entirely concur. I have been concerned about the activities of the Covid-19 sub committee for some time and the secrecy with which they are conducted – there are, as far as I know, no available Minutes or information circulated to the Sections or posted on the web – site and I have sought them. Their proposals are intended to be covert ‘done deal’ – it is in fact a coup d’ état.

I was first made aware of the current restructuring plans for Allen House staff last Friday: since when I have spoken with three members of the staff, a Director and an Area Rep. They are the source of my information.

My concern is for (1) the welfare of our employed staff & (2) the future of the Club as we know it – and have chosen it to be (we went through the pro-commercialisation arguments when Mr. Reeney was chair – and the membership rejected it).

Without intervention I believe all of the customer facing staff will lose their jobs – which is serious for at least 4 ‘breadwinners’. The Unions are likely to represent 3 members – and the whole redundancy process will cost the VMCC a great deal of money; not to mention reputation.

Like you, I do not believe those staff who have been offered new (inferior) contacts will accept them. And I do not believe that the expected replacement with volunteers (3 are rumoured but I only know of 1 confirmed) will have the necessary background and skills to make it work.

I therefore anticipate that the core VMCC activities of Allen House will implode. I do not expect the Sections to take up the running of major events – quite the contrary – I would anticipate that once their individual meeting places reopen, they will revert to being independent units. I think the membership will be very angry and disillusioned.   

I cannot comment on the monitory investment scheme – other that to say it sounds very risky and other (external) agencies would be likely to dominate the VMCC, which would cease to be primarily a vintage & classic Motorcycle club: it would become someone else’s financial investment.

The intention I understand is to focus on recruiting a ‘new’, younger membership though contemporary social media applications – maybe – but with the loss of "flag-ship" events, Banbury, Shows, Training Days (who is going to lend their machines) etc.  I am dubious as to what the "new" VMCC will be able to offer. I don’t believe the clientele for the vintage world is similar to that ‘off-road’ world. (e.g. the TRF).

The only resistance to the above plans that I am aware of is a projected meeting between the existing (5) Area Reps to see if they can agree on a common stand to: (1) resist the restructuring plans) (2) safeguard the Library & other assets, (3) Receive a copy of the full accounts. Again, we are in a parlous state as with 5 Area Rep vacancies there are more Directors than Reps. I also think this process might be too slow and our current staff will have voted with their feet. The only intervention I have made is to suggest to them that they do nothing in haste. 

I am prepared to do more: because I strongly believe in the adage "For ill to succeed it is only necessary for good men to do nothing".

Sincerely, Dave Giles