I’ve been giving a bit of thought lately to the structure of our racing clubs and our heavy reliance on volunteers.
Having been one in three instances with clubs at various levels of the totem pole I think I am pretty well qualified to comment on what I have seen while in those positions and subsequently.
In my first committee incarnation I was not only the first female but also the youngest – by the proverbial country mile. As things went on that theme of age was an on-going one.
Every club I was associated with was conscious of the need to attract younger members or even race attendees and apparently, I was the one who was going to bring those young people on board.
While I had friends who were happy to commit to a day at the races, asking them to devote time – usually on a work day – to sweeping out tote buildings and doing other cleaning up in preparation for a race day, or even spending a couple of hours one evening a month at a committee meeting and they ran for the hills.
I understood totally. In the end my decision to stand down from the committee of the second club I was involved with (after around six years) came down to the fact my service to the club was eating into my holiday leave and time spent with my kids. Three of the club’s race days fell on weekdays which meant each one required me to take three day’s leave for clean-up prior and post race day and the race day itself. The majority of our committee was either retired or self-employed and it was easy to see why.
So, fast-forward to the present and it came as no surprise to me that regional meetings of racing clubs I have attended over the past couple of months provided a sea of grey-heads. The younger brigade was virtually invisible and while I can understand that I do wonder why the ones I hear about aren’t making their voices heard.
I hear rumblings about young racing people wanting to have a say and make an impact, yet they are letting the ideal opportunity to do that pass them by.
How, you ask? Well, quite simple really. Clubs are always saying they are desperate for younger committee members, their bright new ideas and the new racegoers they can provide. Most clubs seem to have problems finding people wanting to put themselves forward for positions on committees. Given that, it is not like they would have to serve the lengthy apprenticeship as a long-term member which was normally required by those who came before them.
If you want change things, then get involved and drive the change from within. I know it’s difficult and I know it requires a time commitment, but I know from experience that it is do-able.
One thing I ask of those who might be considering getting involved with a racing club committee is that they thoroughly acquaint themselves with the structure of the industry and specifically how the funding flows.
There is a glaring need on many club committees for people with a clear understanding of where the money comes from. A proliferation of volunteers seems to think that because they don’t get paid then their particular club doesn’t cost the industry anything. The concept of just where the money that keeps the show on the road seems to have totally bypassed them.
Without the younger brigade stepping up and taking up the challenge I see the volunteer structure of our clubs lasting five to 10 years at the most. While I understand those clubs who felt their futures were threatened following the release of the Messara report and this year’s NZTR Venue Plan consultation document, I do wonder who they are expecting to be running their club in five to 10 years’ time.
Perhaps rather than clinging onto their past and rigidly refusing to examine an alternative future, they need to look at their own succession plans and determine whether their club actually has a future.
After all, what will it mean if a club wins the battle to race at its traditional venue if there is no one left to volunteer?