Two years in, and from my perspective, as a Direct Individual Member, the organisation of the BCA is a shambles.
I thought I'd leave it for a bit, following my last post on the shortcomings of the BCA organisation, to let the flames die down, before inserting the ladle and stirring a bit more. I'm a tad surprised at the dearth of postings, either from the establishment, or the rank and file. Perhaps apathy does reign supreme.
As you may guess, having been shafted three years on the trot, in obtaining a membership card, my main concern is with the membership system, and its particular problems.
I can see no rational reason why the BCA have chosen such a complicated system for membership, with its attendant third party insurance cover. Two possible reasons, both flawed, do come to mind, tho', both associated with membership thro' established caving clubs. The first, that the BCA blithely followed the old BCRA system, ignoring the fact that the old system was gloriously vague. If you were a member of a club, the assumption was that you were covered, whilst the present system requires individual names (and individual payments). The other was that the BCA, by foisting the duty of maintaining and communicating membership details, the collection of subscriptions, and the distribution of cards, and information, onto the various club secretaries, have saved themselves a lot of effort. Instead of a centralised system, where efficiencies can be made, we have this glorious hodge-podge system. Stir in the fact that a number of individuals are members of several clubs and are registered only through one, and you have a recipe for confusion in spades. I have been told that the membership cards for club registered cavers were all handed out to the various club secretaries in the first few weeks of January, long before the club secretaries could possibly be aware of who was and who was not going to renew their membership. How anyone can possibly audit, or keep track of the revenue from the sale of insurance cover is quite beyond me.
I am proposing that the BCA scrap the present system and instead go for total individual membership. All cavers, members of established caving clubs would be required to be current members of the BCA, in order to be insured for third party risks. A list of members on the BCA web site would enable club secretaries to ensure that this was so. Admittedly, this will involve a lot of work, but less than the total amount when distributed around all the clubs. There are organisations only too pleased to carry out this work, albeit at a price. In the good old days, when "Caves and Caving" thumped onto my mat about 4 times a year, I'm sure that it did'nt involve some bent old caver scribbling addresses by the light of an old carbide lamp, in his garden shed. There are a number of spin-off benefits from all individual membership. At present only one person is likely to see any information passed down from the BCA, and that is the club secretary. Other members of the committee may browse through in the quieter parts of meetings. The average member will hear nothing. One of the complaints I hear from the BCA establishment, is that the average caver is not interested. A fair point, but when all are individual members, all will receive the quarterly (?) newsletters. With perhaps an opt-in (or opt-out), for "Speleology", many more will come to read the thing, and there will be a chance that more people will become involved in the running of the sport. With a wider circulation of "Speleology", cost should come down, and the input of articles rise. I frankly cannot see anything but benefits from the adoption of this system, and nothing but confusion from the retention of the present system. And, of course, I shall get my membership card in a reasonable time, or be just one of a host of cavers clamouring for their cards.