The View From the Top


I have struggled this time around to find that inspiration required to write a positive and informative piece. The recent discovery of a new covid variant “Omicron” has just thrown yet another unknown into all our hopes for the New Year. All we can presently hope is that it will not be quite as bad as the pessimists predict and pass into just another hiccup on the way to a more successful Spring and Summer on 2 wheels. Since I became President the club has had to deal with some pretty difficult issues even setting aside Covid.

The last few years have probably been the toughest in the club’s entire 70+ year history. Finding that we were tied into a contract for a new membership data base that was supposed to have been delivered in a few months, but 15months down the line was still largely a figment of someone’s imagination was the first headache. The paperwork took some searching, understanding and was disastrously lacking in many respects. The added problem that we had not only paid the deposit, but the full cost of £9,180 was shattering without anything to show for it. After some legal advice it left me with finding a way forward with the company concerned or losing the money spent. It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get a new fully operational membership data base, but we have finally succeeded. Dealing with the issue of a member with a serious criminal conviction was the next unpleasant and challenging task, but that was followed by the fraudulent loss of £20,000 from the club accounts. It was another serious matter demanding a stern amount of commitment and work with the police and financial authorities over 2 years, eventually rewarded by recovery of the full amount plus 8% compensation.

Since no one had ever experienced an international pandemic the arrival of Covid and the subsequent range of measures to deal with it were a major hit to businesses as well as the regular activities of the club. For an organisation that is based on social interaction and travel that takes a significant toll in so many different ways. The fact that we are still functioning satisfactorily is a credit to all National and Section Officers, whatever their particular area of responsibility. Their ability to observe, adapt and overcome the many different challenges that we have faced individually and collectively has been truly remarkable and for that we must thank them all.

Two comments I regularly hear are; “Why Don’t you do this or that?” and “We are a club not a business”.  My usual response to the first is, “that sounds like a great idea, have a go with it and I’ll, support you all the way”. For the second, if it were that simple it would be great; the reality is not as clear-cut as some might wish. I’ve never heard an entirely rational explanation for the comment and whilst a small club of 20 people might be run off the cuff, the larger the number becomes the less that is possible. We’re a club with considerable financial aspects and a widely dispersed membership. Therefore, running it on a business basis is the only way of ensuring good value, equitable service with viable scrutiny. Whilst we do not actually trade as a business we have to manage all our affairs in a commercial manner. So the swan like appearance belies what is actually going on unseen. That said, there are times when perhaps there is too much focus on process rather than the potential outcome. An example of this was the idea of making the Journal more easily accessible in a digital version. The NC were asked to sanction a proposition to try this which they agreed without asking any questions about scope or process and so work began. Then some months down the line opposition and questions about process and scope bought the trial to an end.

The necessities of 1951 to support the owners of BMW motorcycles created the club and time expanded it to cover the whole of the UK and Ireland. It grew on many different fronts, from newsletters to a magazine and self-help to a library of specialist tools for hire. From Kardex membership records to an IT based system. Specialist registers to cater for the different interests along with access to past general and technical information all add to a varied menu of services and opportunities available. When you top that with what the individual sections offer in terms of meetings, social events, hotel weekends away and trips abroad it is difficult to comprehend why people are reluctant to join. On the other hand, the many mainstream alternative choices for motorcycle trips and holidays all over the world and the modern work life balance today are to an increasing extent not helping our cause.

I have asked myself and others the question “what does the modern owner of a BMW motorcycle want from a club?” It goes without saying that I haven’t found the answer so far, but it does appear that many people don’t want to make any form of long-term commitment, particularly as they can dip in and out of the alternative business providers whenever they want and the only limitation is really their bank balance. Can we do or offer more and should we try to do so? To extend the benefits we would have to decide what that or they might be and more importantly how we could accomplish them. Inevitably there would be a question of cost and volunteer time involvement (commitment). I have written much on the subject over the years and supported two attempts to explain a different approach, both of which were rejected by AGM’s.

So the question is still: where do we go from here? Is the concept of a club now dead, or is there still a place for such organisations? I favour a smaller administrative body at the centre of locally run smaller groups. The Oxford section is quite small when compared with the likes of the Yorkshire, Northern, Scotland and Ireland sections. Food for thought! Who amongst you has the spark of an idea that I can help you fan into the flame of a vibrant new image for the club?

I wish you all a pleasant Christmas and look forwarded to enjoying a better 2022 together.



Author: Biggles