Kevin Reilly, the new Chairman of the RSPBA, has spoken of his confidence that the Association will be able to survive another year of pandemic. ‘I am absolutely confident that we will be here and ready to go again in 2022,’ he said.
‘I have known better times,’ he said, ‘but I have also known worse. It was not so long ago that the RSPBA was almost bankrupt.’
His comments come after worries over finances. It looks increasingly unlikely that the Association will have income from any major championships again this year. This sponsorship can be worth up to £100,000 a year.
Three majors have already been cancelled and well placed sources in the Association have expressed doubts over the feasibility of running the Scottish at Dumbarton on July 31.
Crowds are expected to be restricted to 5,000 for outdoor events, even after lockdown more or less ends in June. Given that the Dumbarton venue is the open-access Levengrove Park, there would be no way of controlling numbers other than by very expensive ring fencing.
The worry over the other remaining major, the Worlds, is that bands may not be ready in time, and some officials are voicing the opinion that without overseas bands, who regularly make up just under a quarter of entries, would it really be a World Championship?
‘Both these Majors remain on the calendar,’ added Mr Reilly, ‘but we are monitoring the situation closely. I know the bands are desperate to get playing again and there is a worry that youngsters will lose interest. They cannot even get together to practice at the moment.
‘However, there is still a lot of teaching going on and I can say that the Music Board are examining the possibility of staging some sort of band event in lieu of competitions and we will make an announcement at the appropriate time.’
This will be Mr Reilly’s second stint as RSPBA Chairman. He served for 7+ years between 2003 and 2010. More recently he has been Convenor of the Music Board and has overseen its smooth operation and liaison with the Board of Directors.
‘Despite illness three years ago, I was motivated to put my name forward for Chairman at the recent AGM. My colleagues in the Association urged me to stand again and I was happy to take up the reins once more. I suppose I will bring a deal of experience to the job at a difficult time.’
Mr Reilly is based in north-east England. His Vice Chairman, Mr Paul Brown, is in north-west England.
‘Technology has transformed the way we do business now,’ Mr Reilly added. ‘Geographical differences are becoming less relevant. I would never want to do away with face-to-face meetings or lose the personal touch, but online calls have become the staple for everyone these days.
‘The Board of Directors are on board on the technical side of things and certainly the Music Board operates very successfully using internet communications, saving time and money. I foresee no problem at all having Paul and I based south of the border.’
At the moment RSPBA HQ in Washington is closed with staff on furlough. Chief Executive Ian Embelton attends occasionally to retrieve mail etc. Mr Embelton was due to retire at the end of the 2019 season but has agreeed to stay on on a part time basis until the pipe band world returns to near normal.
- A recent poll by Piping Press found just under half of respondents were concerned about holding any pipe band contests this year. Check out the story here.