The Missing Majors, Band Sizes, and the Need for an Earlier AGM

Pressure is growing on the RSPBA for an announcement regarding the 2024 ‘missing majors’. The statement published yesterday on PP about the easement of band numbers referenced the major championships and this has given rise to some optimism that there may well be progress afoot.

However nothing has been confirmed and we remain in limbo with only two championships, the Scottish at Dumbarton on July 27, and the Worlds at Glasgow Green on August 16 and 17, in the diary.

By the Editor

Readers have responded to yesterday’s story. Regular correspondent Iain McAlister writes: ‘Never mind minimum sizes it’s time that maximum sizes were introduced, especially at Grade 1 and 2 level. 

‘This would in turn free up players to boost other bands that may be struggling for numbers. It would also make it a fairer contest with bands all having a similar number of players.’

Couldn’t agree more Iain. If six pipers two sides and a bass is a minimum for most grades, why not 12 pipers, four sides, a bass and some tenors as a maximum?

If the minimum in Grade 1 is eight pipers, three sides and a bass why not make the maximum 16, 6 and a bass + tenors?


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Most Grade 1 bands would keep a complement of more than that but there its no question it would free up a whole tranche of top class pipers and drummers ready to populate other bands and boost their standing.

The problem is that the winning pipe majors of the top bands are dead against it. They don’t want to change a successful formula. They like the idea of the grand battalion at the line ready to blow away the opposition.

Reader Bill Wright also welcomed the ‘minimum’ requirement announcement but went on: ‘I would have expected this to happen, and full marks on this initiative, however what we’re all waiting for is clarification on the Majors in 2024

‘I’m of the opinion the RSPBA needs a revamping within their management ranks, but this will not happen whilst in a normal year the AGM is held within only eight weeks of the first Major.

‘To enact the change needed, a more suitable time would most certainly be as soon as possible at the end of the season, October, or at the latest mid-November. 

‘Bands also need to be more proactive in the affairs of the RSPBA. And this is more likely to happen while the past season is fresh in everyone’s mind, giving a clearer picture to the membership in planning ahead.

‘Unless radical steps are taken I fear a bleak future is ahead for an honourable organisation who have served the piping community for 90 years.’

Well said Bill. Many of us see the ‘Missing Majors’ crisis as an existential threat to the RSPBA, an organisation which, as you say, has served us for 90 years, and served us so well. What a terrible shame if it were to fall only a few years short of its centenary. 

The reality is that statements on minimum sizes and debates on maximums all mean nothing if bands do not have a platform on which to perform. Providing that platform is the Association’s raison d’etre.

Without the Majors there is no trickle down effect on the minors, many of which are already struggling. It should be a rule that to play in a major championship you must have supported at least four minor contests during the previous season. This is the entry point in to the majors.

Everyone wins. The bands get a few more run outs. The minors get a boost, momentum builds towards a championship.

For now, though, all talk of band sizes and minor contests pales as we wait for that puff of smoke from the Washington Street chimney that tells us of salvation for the the 2024 pipe band season.


8 thoughts on “The Missing Majors, Band Sizes, and the Need for an Earlier AGM

  1. The problem with caps is that all the extra pipers and drummers don’t want to go and play with just any band.

  2. Whilst I empathise with the desire for capping band sizes, I think folk need to be realistic about how that will work in practice. Will the total number of hands increase? Sure, but not to the full extent of members cast out from oversized bands – you’re simply not going to see a a huge number of grade 1 pipers and drummers happily playing away in grade 3 and suddenly going to all the minors

  3. I continue to be astounded by the number of people who think pipers of the top rank will just meekly accept a place in a lesser ranked band and enjoy spending their time attending practices and competing for ninth place. Have any of these people met good pipers? If you force them out of the Field Marshals and Boghalls of this world, they will not trickle down to other bands, they will leave.

  4. I just don’t see the temporary loss of majors as that bad of a thing. Competitions create the advantage for the bigger bands. No major competitions for a season and the band sizes will naturally decline. I agree it’s time to cap band sizes across the grades, and rebuild the competition season with focus on bringing smaller games back to financial stability. Bloated bands have run the course and proven financially unsustainable.

  5. The plethora of issues facing the RSPBA and the pipe band world are existential and more fundamental and far-reaching than simply addressing “missing majors” or “band sizes”. Pipe Bands need a governing body fit for purpose, with foresight, ambition, creativity and suitable for the 21st century. Either the RSPBA needs to be completely reconstructed or an alternative organisation needs to evolve and take its place.

  6. Maximum band numbers for grade one and grade two are critical to the future of pipe bands 16 and 8 for grade one 14 and 7 for grade two and 12 and 6 for 3a think of the amount of bands that could thrive if this happened unfortunately it’s wishful thinking

  7. If there’s no announcement by early March on the missing majors, I fear by then it may be too late to have any meaningful attendance at these majors. I say this because the majority of band members have work and life commitments which will need to be attended to, and unless they have event to dates to work with, life goes on.
    Totally agree on there being a maximum band size however like turkeys voting for Christmas, the top bands will never vote to change what works in their favor

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