Delayed 2020 BCA AGM announcement

A new date has now been scheduled for the BCA’s delayed annual general meeting – 11th October 2020. It was originally scheduled to take place on 14th June, but was postponed because of the serious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Because of ongoing restrictions in force on organising physical meetings, this meeting will be via tele-conferencing, and will start at 10:30am, with electronic voting on appointments and motions following the meeting. It will still be possible to vote by mail, although electronic voting is being strongly urged. If you wish to post your votes, you must request the required paperwork in advance, by sending a SAE to the BCA secretary. Full details on the meeting, the agenda, and the address to which to send your request for a postal vote are in the AGM agenda which has been published on the BCA website.

This will be the first meeting at which acting chairman Phil Rowsell will preside, and at which he hopes to be elected properly into the role going forwards. This is therefore a fitting place to publish his personal vision of the future of the BCA, which follows:

The chair of the British Caving Association’s vision

Recently the BCA has not been in a good place, effectively broken and plagued by infighting resulting in a septic atmosphere. As a result, in the last four months, six council members (two from the executive) have resigned. This has left the BCA crippled and barely functioning, and a laughing stock to our members, whose only benefit is as a method to get caving insurance. To make matters worse, our world has been turned upside down by Covid-19, which has only served to exacerbate the problem.

As a result, I thought it necessary that I step up to the plate and get involved to try to move the BCA forward for the good of British caving. I was recently ratified by BCA council with an overwhelming mandate by council members. I was both honoured and humbled by this, and by the respect and trust council members have bestowed on me. I hope too, the membership will also reflect this.

My goal is to turn the BCA around to be a powerful national body, promoting caving and valued by its members, dispelling the myth that the BCA is only full of in-fighting and merely about insurance.

Short term:

The most important thing to do is to get the BCA functioning properly. We need to create a culture whereby we conduct our business in a respectful manner, trying to understand others’ points of view and so on, so that in disputes compromise can be reached. We need to clear the backlog, and pick up the balls that have been dropped. We have moved to regular shorter (two-hour) council Zoom meetings with targeted agendas rather than the all-day epics of the past. Our workgroups/committees will be expected to present their work at times to council, to ensure they are functioning and heading in a direction that the BCA believes is correct.

Probably the most important task is that the BCA needs a website fit for a prestigious national body, with a back end functionality for the BCA to engage with its members and vice versa. Our constitution and manual of operations is out of date and ambiguous. Changes are occurring in a piecemeal fashion, exacerbating the problem, so a new working group will be formed to review and re-write them for presentation at the 2021 BCA AGM.

Medium and long-term:

Our sport is dying, we are losing cavers to other sports through events like foot and mouth disease outbreaks and now Covid-19, but also due to the lack of proactivity from the BCA. Our demographics are heavily stacked to an aging population. If we are not careful, the sport we love will die. This, I think, will be a great travesty.

To prevent this, we need to give our full support to the Y&D working group, the Scouts, the universities via CHECC and our caving clubs to encourage and nurture as many new cavers into our sport as possible. Through the Conservation and Access Working Group, while conserving our caves, we need to make access easy and open for all. The comment “we need a cohesive joined up approach” rings home to the core, in that we have been so focused on in-fighting that we have forgotten the bigger picture.

We need to educate our cavers better in all aspects of our sport; caving techniques, rescue, expeditions and science. The BCA Training Committee and QMC (Qualifications Management Committee) are the foundation blocks to provide great training to our cavers. The recent Thai rescue has shown the world how good BCRC and cavers are. British expeditions (assisted by GPF) are renowned and revered around the world. BCRA is doing some great science which, with improved funding for BCRA workshops and research projects, we can show cavers how interesting and important cave science actually is.

Finally, the BCA needs to start looking out for issues that are on or coming over the horizon, so that we can influence government decisions at an early stage rather than having to live with the consequences.

In summarising, there is an awful lot to do. We are all volunteers giving up as much of our precious time as each sees fit. By pulling together and encouraging more of our membership (particularly the young) to be involved in the BCA, we can make the changes.

My door is always open. I hope people will come and air their grievances, ideas and so on. I hope the membership will tell me what the BCA is not doing correctly, what we should be doing and perhaps with time, what the BCA is doing correctly.

I hope you will work with me (and the BCA Council), to move forward, in the knowledge we are trying to do our best for British caving, for the good of the BCA rather than its destruction, to build that national association members are proud of and value and thereby ensuring that our sport grows in time rather than dies.

My thanks and dedication

Phil Rowsell