Wow! Yachting Western Australia and Yachting Victoria now use the same accounting packages!
If, like me, you are initially under-whelmed by that piece of news, please read on. There's something in it for you.
The revelation above came out of an interview with Yachting Australia President Matt Allen. It was a follow-up to another interview (see Related Content) I did with Matt shortly after he assumed the role.
This time I asked him what he and his Board had achieved over the past 12 months. First he explained the significant administration reforms that have been implemented across the country. Then he showed me why they were necessary and how they benefit every sailor who is a member of YA.
At a special general meeting in October last year, YA got unanimous approval from its MYAs (the state and territory bodies) for governance reforms that resulted in YA becoming a Company Limited by Guarantee with an entirely new constitution.
There are two reasons according to Matt Allen. Firstly, to qualify for funding from the Federal Government, it needed to be done. Secondly, and this is the one that's important to you and me, it streamlines administration, taking out duplications and leaving more money and staff time for important things like promoting sailing.
We only have to look at Australia's Federal system to know why the old model was a mess. I have a WA Skippers Ticket and a Queensland drivers licence. My yacht has been registered in WA, NSW, Queensland and as an Australian vessel and has more numbers than a bookie's clerk.
Yachting Australia had the same problems. Each MYA had its own accounting systems, resulting in similar items being reported in different ways. YA had to merge nine sets of accounts, created in nine different ways, into one before it could report to the Federal Government and therefore access funds.
There were nine websites, nine insurance policies, nine different groups all having to report on Fair Work issues. There was also a problem with communication – YA couldn't talk directly to the sailors in each state. Now everything is centralised and all administration is handled by YA.
Matt Allen is quick to point out that taking the burden of administration off the states and territories doesn't mean they will cease to exist. And those that had assets prior to the amalgamation into one body will retain those assets for their own sailors. YA cannot get its hands on their funds or distribute South Australian money to Queensland, for example.
“The benefit of all this is that the MYAs can spend their time delivering what sailors want. We have some very high-quality people in the state offices. I'd rather they spent their time delivering programs than filling in forms.
Another benefit is that the programs being delivered will be consistent. Instead of nine different groups delivering nine different programs, there will be one program with clearly identified goals and pathways.
To see the variance in program delivery in the past, one only has to look at the results of Youth classes over the past few years. In Western Australia, Arthur Brett and Belinda Stowell have been delivering superb coaching programs with the result that in classes like the Laser, 29er and 420, WA has had a disproportionate number of sailors in the top 10 nationally.
Matt Allen says the aim with all programs is to bring every state and territory up to the level of the best. “In the long-term, we want to see more people sailing at a higher level.”
This website receives emails from people complaining that too much money is spent on high performance sailing to the detriment of the “grass roots”. But Mat Allen says the number of complaints are much lower now than they used to be.
“Since Weymouth (when Australia won three gold medals and a silver at the 2012 Olympic Games) that's stopped,” Allen says. “There has definitely been a knock-on effect. The Discover Sailing program has definitely helped but the big increase in membership is down to Weymouth.”
Allen also points out that High Performance doesn't take a single cent from sailors' membership fees. It is all funded by government grants, patrons and sponsors. In fact, sailing is the second-highest funded Olympic sport after swimming.
“Every member of a sailing club in Australia pays around $12 to YA. That's three cups of coffee a year, and not a cent of it is spent on High Performance.”
In our first interview, Matt Allen said sailing clubs needed to “rip down the fences” and throw away the “members only” signs. He says many clubs have done that and are reaping the rewards. Most are much more welcoming these days, and on most club websites one of the first things you see is “how to join”.
I commented that on my way into our meeting at the CYCA, I noticed a huge number of names on the noticeboard, waiting for confirmation of their membership. Allen said that was down to a membership drive that offered a 70 cent joining fee to coincide with the 70th Sydney-Hobart Race.
“We also brought in temporary memberships. If someone wants to go twilighting, for example, at any club in Australia, they sign a temporary membership form and they are instantly covered under the Silver Card insurance scheme and can access the bar and other club facilities.
“YA doesn't charge a cent for that,” says Allen. “It's up to the clubs how they manage it, but it should be an excellent source of new members for them.”
Allen says other benefits that YA has offered to clubs include a more flexible Tackers program. “We're keeping the quality but allowing clubs to adapt the program to their unique circumstances. We also provide funding to buy Optis for the program. We've funded more than 50 so far.”
He also says there are better pathways for young sailors. Instead of just Laser/420/29er there are multiple options including boards, kites and multihulls, which are all very appealing to the youth of today.
“We still lose a lot of teenagers and we intend to roll out programs to bridge the gap. It's easy to say but much harder to do,” says Allen. However, he points to the trend around the world of more females getting into the sport and says that's a growth area that needs to be well-managed.
“Sailing is starting to grow for the first time in 30 years. The clubs are getting better at growing membership, there are better pathways and if we continue our success at the Olympics, sailing will be seen as a dynamic and exciting sport.
“I don't think it's that complicated but we need to bring everyone with us. We can still be better than we are and that's our aim. There's a very exciting future for our sport.”
– Roger McMillan, editor.