RSPBA Chairman Speaks on ‘Major Deficit’ Facing Bands for the 2024 Season

Kevin Reilly, Chairman of the RSPBA (above), has confirmed that ‘nothing is off the table’ in the Association’s quest to find venues for three major championships next summer.

‘If for example Cowal or the All Irelands come calling then we will consider them,’ he said. Mr Reilly was speaking after his letter to member bands this week. It outlined the difficulties the Association is facing in securing arrangements for three remaining Majors.

The Scottish Championships are at Levengrove Park, Dumbarton, on July 27, and the Worlds at Glasgow Green on August 16/17. The Europeans, UK and British are all in a state of flux.

The Association are hopeful that word will come next month on the UKs, held for the past few years in Northern Ireland. Outside of that there is nothing concrete, with local authorities struggling for money.


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‘It is time to think out of the box,’ said Mr Reilly. ‘We have a team actively looking at all options. This includes sponsorship. We might have to take on shared responsibility with an events organiser.

‘Our team is working tirelessly to find solutions. We are open to any date, any geographical area. We have contacted towns all over the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

‘We have produced a pack detailing how they would make money from a championship. The economic impact is positive and considerable. It is estimated, for example, that Dumbarton makes between £1.5 -£2m from its staging of the Scottish – and they give free entry to everyone!

‘Moreover we know that Aberdeen made a profit from running the Europeans last year. This event was so successful that local bands have launched a petition to have it restored. I went to thank them for that and I can confirm that I have signed it.

St Laurence O’Toole at the profit-making Scottish Championships

‘We like the idea of the Worlds being the final event, the climax of our season, but if we have to go beyond that date then we have to go beyond that date.’

The ‘Majors Team’ are exploring how a championship could be split over several minor contests, Grade 3 British at Dunbar, Grade 2 at Lesmahagow, for example. (Names chosen at random to illustrate the point, not to confirm anything.)

‘What a boost that would be for a minor contest,’ Mr Reilly continued, ‘and I don’t think the logistics would be insurmountable.

‘Given the difficulties we are having it is clear that the old ‘council contract’ model is not fit for purpose.

‘What about sponsorship? I believe this would be attractive to companies. Think of the exposure their name and products would get with their hoardings round the Grade 1 arena at a major championship. Videos of these events are watched by tens of thousands of people around the world.

‘I can assure all of our member bands that we are working very hard on a way forward. No effort will be spared. In the meantime I want to thank everyone for their support and suggestions.

‘Please contact Headquarters if you feel you can help in any way. As I say, we are open to all ideas. We are determined to give the bands the 2024 season they deserve.’

  • Read yesterday’s story on this issue here.

7 thoughts on “RSPBA Chairman Speaks on ‘Major Deficit’ Facing Bands for the 2024 Season

  1. Reading the quotes of Mr Reilly are quite concerning and show a degree of arrogance in my humble opinion. I agree with the comments that it should be the RSPBA making pro-active approaches to the likes of Cowal and elsewhere rather than the other way about.

    Concerning times however let’s hope that progress can be made.

  2. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Rspba is not fit for purpose. Its purpose is to organise 5 major events. This is the second year this has not happened. The restructuring of the world’s to a two day event has not been a success and has reduced the excitement of the event. Interest in piping competitions is reducing year on year under the current structure and a new new organisation needs to be put in place to regenerate interest.The sooner this option is put to the membership in the form of an extraordinary AGM meeting the better.This is the only music genre were the performers are not rewarded for their performances in the form of adequate prize money or royalties for there live performances. The Rspba seem to think that the competitors are not entitled to remuneration and then claim that councils are making large profits. The bands are limited to voting rights and can be manipulated by a bullying organisation who do not listen to their members opinions. Maybe common sense will now prevail.

  3. I share the sentiments of the Editor in their response to the previous post: “What a profoundly troubling situation”.

    The RSPBA often comes under fire and gets significant amounts of criticism, at times quite unfairly in my view. However, this is an occasion where I think they have, and are continuing to making life very awkward for themselves, and in turn their membership.

    I find the Chairman’s recent correspondence confusing.

    Firstly, he states that “If for example Cowal or the All Irelands come calling then we will consider them”. Tell me, in what circumstances would such established events ever “come calling” to the RSPBA? If the association is working as tirelessly as they say they are, should they not be banging down the door to make it happen rather than sitting waiting for the phone to ring?

    In his letter to the bands, the Chairman states that the meetings they have had are looking towards local authorities hosting Major Championships in 2025/6 and onwards and that they will continue to be involved in these discussions. Yet in this post, he says that “given the difficulties we are having it is clear that the old ‘council contract’ model is not fit for purpose”.

    Well which is it? Whether that’s taken out of context or not, I’m not certain this is the rhetoric said prospective local councils will want to read. The council contact model IS clearly fit for purpose and has been the staple for many a year. However, all the eggs have been in the one basket with no other tools in our armoury for staging a major championship.

    He further states that “It is time to think out of the box”. I would agree, but surely that time was at the very least 9 or 12 months ago when the 2023 British Championships were beginning to look in real doubt?

    Taking on shared responsibility is a given I would think: Match funding, applying to the variety of bodies that exist (EventScotland, Creative Scotland, National Lottery etc.) A quick Google search shows EventScotland have a fund open right now that closes for applications in January. It’s not clear if any of these avenues have been explored before now?

    As was mentioned in a comment on the previous post, there may be branches who are financially in a sound position (e.g. NI) and who potentially could part-stage a major themselves. Alternatively pooling surplus funds with that of other branches for RSPBAHQ to host one itself. This isn’t sustainable long term but may allow a successful 2024 to go ahead.

    Historically, the RSPBA has never been flight or foot and I fear that if the current situation is not resolved positively, then it will have severe ramifications for its long term existence. All businesses and charitable organisations have had to adapt in recent times.

    It’s easy to scream from the sidelines without knowing the full details but the RSPBA’s approach has been and continues to be far too passive. In a post Brexit, post pandemic landscape, there is no denying things are very tough indeed. I want to believe that the current incumbents of the RSPBA have the expertise, business acumen and financial connections to create a business model that is sustainable in the long term. Given the Chairman is open to all ideas and to receiving help, I fear they quite simply do not.

  4. Quote from Mr Reilly…. “if Cowal or the All Irelands come calling..”
    I would seriously suggest that the RSPBA should be proactively contacting the organising committees for these 2 events. It’s the RSPBA that is in difficulty, not the reverse.

    1. With regard to the All Ireland. Unlike most other contests the AI is a joint venture between two associations and would rrquire the consent of both to be elevated to major status.

    2. Absolutely agree, “anonymous.” RSPBA must get on the phone to the Cowal Gathering Committee NOW!
      Also, is there something amiss when some respondents to Mr Reilly feel the need to be anonymous???

  5. I was wondering what is the cost to rspba per major? Not the promoter or the local authority willing to stage the event. What is the cost of judging the event? To what is taken in by fees that the bands pay? If this is not equal the event will be run at a loss is the case? Why it seems a branch can run a compition and there is not same controversy as it seems when headquarters take over? Yes I understand there is far greater amount of bands etc. but is it not the case the bands orginise there own transport and accommodation if required? It seems like from outside the people in control at the top are not doing there job for the members? Could it be that fees need to be put up to sustain the organisation? What is the cost of the executive to the organisation? This may be to high ? I would like to here others thoughts on the questions,I have asked

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