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An open letter from the Chair of British Canoeing regarding the proposals to the Extraordinary General Meeting

John Coyle1

I write to provide you with some further background to the proposals being made by the Board to the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), taking place on Saturday 25th March.

I am aware that these issues are being debated in clubs and through social media. So I am pleased to share the Board’s thinking on these important matters, so that you are fully informed and in the best place to use your votes wisely in person or by using the proxy form process. 

Why an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM)?

The changes proposed require approval at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). The outcome of the EGM could affect the way the Annual General Meeting (AGM) is conducted. It is appropriate therefore to consider these proposals within an EGM and then conduct the AGM in accordance with the decisions taken by the EGM.

Background to the proposals

The proposals are part of our plans to strengthen and improve the sport at all levels over the next four years – to the benefit of members, clubs, paddlers and coaches. We will be launching the new strategic plan on the weekend of the EGM and I know that many of you contributed through the consultation process. I hope that you will be impressed by how comprehensive the plan is and how it seeks to address the key issues that have been the subject of debate within the sport.

Life President

I would first like to explain the rationale around the proposal to create a new role of Life President. The position of Life President would be awarded to recognise truly outstanding service to the sport. The appointment of a Life President would need to be approved by the AGM.

As you may be aware, Albert Woods OBE has been the President of British Canoeing for the past 25 years. During this time Albert has become very established internationally and is currently President of the European Canoe Association and a member of the Executive Committee of the ICF. It is important that British Canoeing is influential at this level.

The Board is keen to recognise both his outstanding service and the important role that Albert holds within the international community. It is proposing that a new role of Life President is created and should this be approved, that Albert be invited by the AGM to become the first Life President. This would provide Albert with the status to continue to operate in the international environment, with the clear endorsement of British Canoeing. Albert’s non-voting attendance at meetings would also ensure the Board remains connected with international matters and that Albert remains in touch with our developments.

The Honorary President

The Board is proposing that the title of President becomes Honorary President. The role would remain very similar to the current position of President including the right to attend board meetings. The Board is keen for the Honorary President to become even more active within the sport domestically, carrying out ceremonial duties at events and operating as an ambassador of British Canoeing at national, regional and club levels, talking with and listening to members and club representatives in the process. This would involve making a commitment of a considerable number of days to the duties of the President during the year (circa 20 per annum).

It is intended that the Honorary President would serve for a term of two years and that a new Honorary President will be elected every two years, creating the opportunity to regularly honour outstanding servants of the sport.

President Elect

It is further proposed that the Honorary President should be elected in the year prior to their first year of term to become the Honorary President Elect. They would automatically become Honorary President the following year. This would ensure that their diary could be managed in advance for the first year of becoming Honorary President as opposed to when they take up office in April there being no arrangements in place for the year ahead. It would also provide a benefit that in any year, ceremonial duties could be shared between the Honorary President and the President Elect.

To clarify and confirm this would mean the Honorary President Elect being elected by the AGM to serve a year as President Elect before moving on without further election to two years as President. The next Honorary President Elect would then be elected by the AGM at the start of the Honorary President’s second year as President.

Selecting the Honorary President/Honorary President Elect

Currently the President is determined by a ballot. Any person can be nominated by two other members from different National Associations and then the decision is made by ballot and announced at the AGM.

This system is open and involves all members, but may not necessarily be the best system for determining our new Honorary President Elect/Honorary President every two years. It is vital that the voice of the sport is at the forefront in determining who should be the Honorary President, that the right representative of the sport is chosen and that they have the respect of the whole community.

It is proposed that the current system is developed, to establish a nominations panel, which would be made up of senior volunteers from within the sport. This would include experienced individuals such as Discipline Committee Chairs, National Association representatives, Regional Chairs, Vice Presidents and Past Presidents and a representative of the Board.

This nominations panel would both invite and seek nominations from those who could be a suitable candidate and who have the time and desire to carry out the important duties of the Honorary President. The panel would consider and agree who would be the most suitable candidate and also over time look to ensure that there was gender, discipline/interest/geographical balance to those who were nominated for approval by the AGM to become Honorary President Elect/Honorary President.

The AGM would still vote on the appointment of the Honorary President Elect/President.  

Timelines for the election of the next President

If this proposal to establish a nominations panel was approved by the EGM, it would take a few months to set up the nominations panel and to consider nominations. In this eventuality it is further proposed that the election of the President would need to be delayed and take place within an EGM to be organised later in 2017. It is likely that an EGM will be required in Autumn to consider changes to membership which may be proposed as a result of the consultation around membership categories which will commence in the next few weeks.

If the proposals to change the way the Honorary President is elected are not approved, then the AGM this year will consider the election of the President in the normal way and the results cast within the ballot for the President will be announced. It is important therefore that you also use you vote for President and complete and return the ballot form which can also be downloaded from the website.  

Other proposed changes

There are some other changes being proposed to the Articles. These predominantly seek to ensure the effective operation of your Board and help us to maintain the confidence and support of all stakeholders. These include;

·        Clarification of the length of the term served by Directors

·        Clarity in the appointment process and term of office of the Chair

·        Proposal for the Chair to chair General Meetings

·        Proposal to appoint a Vice Chair of the Board

·        Proposal to clarify the quorum of the board

All of these changes are relatively minor in nature and the rationale is explained within the EGM papers. I hope these are all relatively straight forward and will receive your support.

Voting 

I hope that members will use their vote in support of the Board’s proposals. I understand there is concern about a sense of members’ power being eroded in the selection of the President. During the last 25 years there have been very few times when this post has been contested. It is the Board’s view that we should now be looking to elect a new Honorary President as a matter of course every two years and that this needs a different and more considered process if it is going to occur this regularly. I would like to emphasise that this will still be a transparent process with the nominations panel being drawn from key volunteers in the sport and the members still electing the President at the AGM. Whilst this a change to our current process it is one which is not uncommon in other national governing bodies of sport.

Voting can of course be carried out in person at the EGM and AGM or by using the proxy forms which can be downloaded on the website. You may nominate an individual who is attending as your proxy or alternatively you can nominate the Chair of the Meeting to carry your proxy vote.

If you are not planning to attend the General Meetings please do download the proxy forms to submit your proxy votes by Wednesday 22nd March for the EGM and the AGM and the ballot form for the President, should this be required.

The link to this information, which is on the home page of our website is provided below;

https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/news/2017/british-canoeing-2017-annual-general-meeting-agm/

If you would like to discuss this further please do contact me by email; john.coyne@britishcanoeing.org.uk

Kind Regards

Yours sincerely

Professor John Coyne CBE

Chair, British Canoeing

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