Thursday, February 02, 2012

Other States are Doing It, Why Not Queensland?

So, UFNSW have announced that they are increasing their league and tournament fees, to help continue employing a Development Officer.

Which brings us to an important question.

Should QUDA increase the cost of Ultimate in Queensland to employ a Development Officer?

By our rough estimate, funding a part-time QUDA Development Officer would involve something like increasing the typical League fee by $10/season, and the typical tournament fee by $2.50 per day.

The QUDA Executive, being volunteers with limited time, asked that this discussion be focused here on the Brisbane Ultimate Blog, which has the capacity to host lots of comments (including anonymous ones, which of course are read but maybe not given the weight of those by real people), because they don't really want to read and reply to dozens of emails or have people in their face at game time. So please respect their time and stick to discussing the *idea* here (at least for a while!)

So, the QUDA Executive has been thinking about this for a while and has run some figures through the Atari2600 here at the stately Brisbane Ultimate Blog mansion (see below). In the lead-up to QUDA’s Annual General Meeting on 3 March, its worth discussing, at the least to give some views for the 2011-2012 Executive to consider as they go into their 2011-2012 planning.

Development Officers in Other States

Ultimate Frisbee NSW have had a full-time Development Officer for about two years. The position has been very successful, a testament to getting the right person and that person working very hard! The annual cost to UFNSW is about @$46k. As it is roughly understood here at the mansion, UFNSW initially funded this position primarily through its deep savings over many years, generated through its main source of income – running the massive Sydney Northern Suburbs League (500+ players over three seasons annually, for many many years). The Development Officer also ‘makes’ money to support the position, in that coaching services are provided to schools for a fee. UFNSW were also able to gain a small grant that contributed to their capacity to fund the job. (UFNSW of course also makes money from other things (disc sales, interest) and spends money on other things, but this is roughly how they’re able to do it. Check out UFNSW’s finances for 2010-2011 at:

Ultimate Victoria and WAFDA also have development officers. There is a bit of variation between the details of the roles from place to place (and we invite them to comment in), but generally their roles aim to a) generate income to help pay for their positions, either through grants or paid services (such as coaching) and b) grow the long term membership of the Ultimate organisation in their state, primarily by ‘getting Ultimate into schools’ and then getting those people into Ultimate Leagues and Tournaments (including helping them set up their own Leagues and Tournaments).

The QUDA Executive’s desire to investigate and see if we can avoid falling further behind the other states has also been stimulated by a detailed proposal from a prominent local Ultimate player to become QUDA’s Development Officer, who has a long history of growing the sport through schools and other work.

QUDA's Finances and Capacity to Employ

QUDA’s finances are unlike these other states. QUDA does not run major Leagues as all other States do. In Queensland, these are run by BUDA, GCU, JCU, UQ, etc. QUDA does run a few key tournaments - Halibut, Northerns, the Q-Hat, and Nationals when they come to Queensland. But generally these events are run to ‘break even’ rather than to turn a surplus (I don’t use “profit”, as that implies money is taken out of Ultimate. A particular event can make money, but this money is reinvested in Ultimate, including when future events accidentally make a loss).

QUDA has not had to seek income this way because we’ve been fortunate that the Queensland Government provides grants system for State Sporting Organisations.

It is however explicit in this grant that it cannot be used to employ someone. QUDA does at various times pay people casual hobbyist rates or honourariums (eg Coaches, Course Presenters, the Executive Officer, promotional workers) or via gifts to particular volunteers, but it usually tries to do this with money from outside the State Grant. But it is impossible to extend this approach to the proper employment of someone for a few days a week, who needs a contract in place so that they give up other work to take the job on, who will need sick and recreation leave, superannuation, and so forth.

So QUDA would need to generate alternative income if it wished to employ a proper Development Officer over the long term. It is very rare for government grants to pay for staff – this is every sport’s dream but it doesn’t happen, and it isn’t sustainable as the grant may disappear and then what happens.

The AFDA Fee and the QUDA Fee

In the past, QUDA charged an annual membership fee, paid in February and which included a new QUDA disc. While this generated some income for QUDA, it is arguable its primary goal was ensuring that we had a member list to ensure its legal continuity, and keep a steady flow of discs into the community. AFDA used to have an annual fee also, collected at Nationals each year.

As Ultimate in Queensland grew to be more than a single League at one venue, it became impractical to continue trying to collect this annual fee. In 2004 or so, AFDA moved to an event based fee system, which levied a small amount per League or Tournament, collected from the League or Tournament Director and factored into their budgeting for player fees (“the AFDA fee”). The AFDA fee generated enough income to support an Administrative Officer to oversaw the system (amongst many other useful duties). So QUDA saw and took an opportunity to use the same system, introducing a “QUDA fee” that would be collected using the AFDA’s system.

Initially, the QUDA fee was set at a QUDA AGM as 20% of the AFDA fee. At present, the AFDA collects fees from Leagues and Tournaments at a rate of around $1.32 a registered player a week for League fees, and $3.96 a registered player a day for Tournament fees.

QUDA set its fee at 20% largely to establish the system with a relatively tokenistic amount. There is a sense that QUDA has however been relatively haphazard in collecting QUDA fees, and some events and tournaments in Queensland haven’t been invoiced or chased for payment. Hence one of the primary jobs for a QUDA Development Officer would probably be working with the QUDA Treasurer to get this system working properly.

So, How Would It Add Up?

So, to the figures. By our rough estimates, based on a scan of the AFDA registration system, AFDA would have collected around $21,618 in Queensland in 2011 (not including Nationals).

If QUDA had collected its 20% QUDA fee on this, it would have earned $4,323. This is obviously not enough to employ a Development Officer. But certainly, Step One for QUDA is to start properly and seriously collecting the QUDA fee.

Many events in Queensland do not use the AFDA registration system, and so do not pay AFDA fees (and problematically for QUDA, many of these players are therefore not actually members of QUDA) – this includes Leagues on the Gold Coast, Townsville and UQ (plus Cairns being pretty rough, but then its new and learning). If those Leagues had have been included in the AFDA/QUDA fee system, then our guess is that AFDA fees for Queensland would have gone up to around $28.5k, and QUDA fees to $5.7k. So a second step for QUDA is to continue trying to get those Leagues to become proper members of QUDA (we should acknowledge of course that there is a debate to be had about whether or not a Brisbane-based Development Officer can deliver x% of their attention to regional areas. Our sense is that this is certainly feasible, particularly given QUDA’s long term goal of growing the sport throughout regional Queensland. Also, given these places currently don’t pay anything to AFDA or QUDA, there’s have to be some progressive increase of fees – ie not all at once).

Then to finally get to the point (and I thank you all for reading this far!), there is the option for QUDA to pull the % lever and increase QUDA fees. Here’s our estimates:

Increase the QUDA fee from 20% to 50% of AFDA fee (and collect it all) would generate $10.8k on current takings and $14.2k if the ‘lost leagues’ were gained. This would be a $5.50 increase on a current BPL or BUML fee (assuming 14 player team) (typical and largest leagues in Queensland) and $2.38 on the Halibut fee (typical two day tournament).

Increase the QUDA fee from 20% to 75% of AFDA fee - $16.2k on current Leagues, $21.3 on all Leagues. $10.16 increase on BPL/BUML and $4.36 on Halibut.

Increase to 100% and its $21.6k on current or $28.5k on all, for a $14.78 increase on BPL/BUML and $6.34 on Halibut.

Here's the spreadsheet - click to embiggen. It may not be completely right, but we think its good enough to support this discussion. Please don't point out minor errors to us!

So what’s this all mean?

Well, Assuming you employ someone for half-time and it costs about half of what it costs UFNSW, you need say $24k/annum, with coaching income on top of that to fill out another half to a full day. So the question is: Should QUDA then increase its fees to 75% of the AFDA fee from 1 July 2012 in Brisbane, and say in the regions first start collecting it at 25% and then increase it by 25% each six months until its 75%?

What do you think?

To pre-empt a response from some who may say “So its going to cost more for me to play Ultimate. I play BPL and BUML all year, plus Halibut and the Q-Hat and Northerns, and so it’ll be pouring $65 a year more into QUDA’s coffers. What’s in it for me?”

Aside from a brief “Do you want our sport taken more seriously in the future?” which of course would require a lot of unpacking in terms of benefits and so forth (and requiring Ultimate players to think beyond the next season is a challenge, to be sure), perhaps a simple “Growth = more playing opportunities for you in the future. Growth = more Leagues on different nights in different places, growth means more teams and divisions in existing Leagues and tournament (meaning more competition). Growth = a higher standard at the higher levels (including being more competitive on the national scene).

So, thanks for reading all this. Its a month until the AGM. This isn’t a decision for the AGM – its a decision for the QUDA Executive. But no doubt when they are elected at the AGM, they’d like to go away and start to plan their year of office with an idea of what people would think if they made a decision to increase the QUDA fee and employ a Development Officer.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Have to think this through. So much depends on the right person. Quick question though, does QUDA have the volunteer depth to do all the work involved in having a paid employee? They seem flat out getting done their usual stuff, and had to hire JdR to help out etc etc.

Anonymous said...

Also... growth = more players to share the burden of cost.

Qld is now a long way behind other states, as their new youth will make a big difference in a few years, and it takes a wee while to get momentum...

JdR said...

Come on anonymous people, be yourselves! This is meant to be useful for people making the decisions, and it helps if they know who's putting ideas out there (and that it's not just one person).

Duncan (Townsville) said...

As a regional player playing in an area that does not currently pay any AFDA or QUDA fees, I am in agreeance that we should at least be paying some sort of fee. I did the maths myself (thanks for your chart above) and at the present we could handle paying 25% of AFDA fees, but as it rises up to 75% so would our fees grow by $5 to $15 respectively. I think that having such an officer would be of huge benefit to our sport across the state, and agree that a gradual increase to regional fees to achieve the 75% would be achievable over time, even if slower in regional areas. Its the timing of such a move that I will be interested to hear more of ....

adam said...

Short answer to a big issue - lets go for it. What have we really got to lose that we couldn't get back if we realised it was the wrong call? But the potential for gain is immense, not just growth in depth of competition and locations, but the reliability of having more people planning for the success of ultimate in qld. I know there's downsides for those with limited budgets, but from my perspective ultimate is still a reletively cheap sport to play in comparison.


JMc said...

Brief response (no time for more at the moment): LET'S GET ONE.

I'd suggest they start with a small role (10-20 hours/wk?) to figure out how it's going to work... specifically, to figure out what they're gonna do in their job. There's a million options, but doing a million things won't create great outcomes in anything...

A bit of extra cost is fine. Slow increase is a good idea. Collecting fees consistently across the board is another good one.

That's the 2c version.

Jules said...

I think you answered your own question in the first 2 sections, JdR - the question is whether QLD can afford NOT to do it.

Regarding comments above...
I agree it needs the right person and I think only a current/former player who is established in the Brisbane frisbee community could really excel at it.

Comparatively, ultimate is a ridiculously cheap sport to play. I know some will go on about all the travelling costs to tournaments etc, but that shouldn't dictate league fees. Who can't afford to pay an extra $10 per season? That's equivalent to 2 coffees...

Is it even "legal" (not quite the right word) for leagues in QLD to not use the AFDA system? What do they do for insurance, etc? Players surely wouldn't be eligible for the AFDA sports injury compensation/compassionate funding. Do they get that stuff from elsewhere?

Lastly, I look forward to reading Chris Cunliffe's anticipated essay on the relevant business principles.

Mansauce said...

As stated above, Ultimate is a stupidly cheap sport to play at it's current cost level. Especially considering the higher level leagues and tournaments are considering 'elite' level sport. Try playing D grade social touch or indoor cricket for a season and you'll appreciate how cheap ultimate is. My obvious point being an extra $10 is well worth the benefits.

I'd like to also echo Jules' point on leagues not using the AFDA registration system. If they aren't registered on AFDA does it means they will be ineligible for insurance claims? It will only strengthen and help the sport grow by having all players across all competitions registered correctly.

In summation: Put the fees up to whatever is deemed appropriate and lets develop some ultimate!

JdR said...

Regarding the "lost leagues". Just as there are say many different touch football leagues, there's nothing to stop anyone running an Ultimate League or Tournament and not being part of the AFDA and QUDA. The challenge for those organisers is they are exposing themselves to be sued personally if something goes wrong and they don't have alternate insurance. Since the option is "just make everyone pay an extra few bucks and register via the rego system", most Ultimate organisers opt in. Players then get injury insurance benefits, as well as the feeling of being a proper part of the wider community. 'Senior' players in such circumstances typically get injury insurance that covers them at league because they've played a tournament in the last 6 months.
JCU and UQ also rely on their University's providing some sort of insurance, although its not terribly transparent - nobody has been able to point me at the documentation or give me an example of anyone making a claim.

Rick said...

TL;DR. But Ultimate is too cheap, we should increase the fees if it means a better experience (grass mown, soccer balls off the field) etc. Uni students / unemployed may disagree but as a full time worker I'd be happy to pay more to play Ultimate.

Jonathan Potts said...

Much as I support the work of development officers for youth development, I actually think you get much more "bang-for-buck" by employing people to run leagues and tournaments.

Leagues and tournaments drive increased income and membership. Those states who are spending lots of money on development officers are not growing their membership at anywhere near the rate needed to support their (great) work.

If we want to retain players and grow the sport, we need to run our leagues professionally. That can't be done with volunteers. I am running a league, with a dedicated group of volunteers, in Eastern Sydney. We are struggling to provide the services that are required, because we're all volunteers. It would be better to be paying someone $4,000 per year to spend a couple of hours a week on our league, along with other leagues around Sydney.

Volunteers inevitably drop the ball, and that can be deadly for a league with a lot of new players that need help.

- Pottsy.

amclean said...

Agree with above that Ultimate is a cheap sport and fees could increase if improvements are shown. Regarding paid Development Officer, also a good idea. Perhaps a motivated person in a part-time role to see if it works out. QLD will get left behind by the other states if this doesn't happen. particularily targeting Under 19s, high school students. I like many people chose Ultimate as a secondary sport after not excelling at other sports. To attract the best athletes we need to get to them earlier. Revenue raising: When QUDA gave out a free disc as part of the $20 membership fee (plus rebel sport discount) I thought this was great. A new frisbee every year for what you normally pay.

JdR said...

Ahh Rick, our poor Gen Zer. But at least I wrote my long missive with the point at the start! ;) Raising fees to improve the quality of venue is an event by event matter, although the challenge is typically that venues are hard to find (although Lang Park has a lot of free nights if you want to spend up).

Pottsy - I didn't want to get too far into 'what a Development Officer should do', as this is more able to be pursued once we've decided to have one. It's also likely to be contested. Like you, I personally lean well away from the model of "if someone teaches Ultimate in schools, then problem solved!" although a) once you start charging schools for the service, you're adding new income for the sport. My main focus though is b) the Development Officer needs to grow the MEMBERSHIP over the long term, rather than 'teach people to play Ultimate'. I think a broad limiter of all the work people have done with Ultimate in schools is that this hasn't been tied to "so here's what you can do after school (both after 3.30pm and after Year12)." So yeah, QUDA's Development Officer should be focused on increasing membership, and schools are only one avenue (although a potentially paying one).

JdR said...

If it wasn't obvious, membership is people playing in our leagues and tournaments.

Teaching 400 kids how to play Ultimate while they're in Year 9 does raise the profile of the sport, but I'd rather have 10 new people play in the next BUML. The latter would cost a lot less to do. Of course, we could also run an after school pickup for any of those 400 kids who like the Ultimate to come and keep playing, and that's how those kids will start playing BUML when they're a bit older.

Jonathan Potts said...

BTW, to provide some numbers, we started off our first league 3 years ago with about 80 players. We grew to 160 players in Spring in year 2. We lost a lot of those new players, and are now back to around 80 players in year 3!

A league needs to keep delivering services consistently and scale up those services in a smooth and timely fashion, which is very difficult with only volunteers to rely on.

We would probably be 300+ players instead of 80 if we could have kept serving our players at high levels throughout the past 3 years.

tamarastro said...

Absolutely YES. It would be well worth the investment. Will easily pay for itself eventually with more people paying for leagues and tourneys as the sport grows.

Stu Austin said...

As expected the big money earner is BUML, which as Adilia updates on the yahoogroups each year, is already generating a massive surplus of money with no apparent goal! Wouldn't it be better to resolve what BUDA are doing with this money prior to charging more?

I would prefer to see numerous people to be paid as league directors across the state, with bonuses for player retention and increase in player numbers. Then the development of frisbee in QLD ins't reliant on one person and you would hope to see player numbers increase across the state, rather than just Brisbane.

(no-longer a QLD'er so take what you will)

JdR said...

Well, the table above shows that BUML is a big AFDA fee payer. Looking at the info on the yahoogroup, whether BUML earns a surplus or not seems to vary a lot from season to season, given its goal has in the past to be largely 'break even', and I understand the reconstituted BUDA is looking closely at that.

BUDA has also established that it will pay all its League Directors in a consistent manner, although its more 'honourarium' than 'source of income' (ie still reliant on people volunteering their time).

Ultimate could certainly pay the people running Leagues more, and seek to improve the product that way.

For consideration - there's also little to stop an entrepreneur from establishing their own League that offers a better quality, and pricing it to make money for themselves. We see this somewhat in tournaments, with 'premium' events costing more, providing more services, and earning the host a few bucks. The challenge is whether or not there's a market for that.

South Australian Spesh said...

This was something SA thought about for a while, eventually other things took precedence.

Taking UFNSW's numbers. They had 45 school teams register for the 'gala day' tournaments. That's approximately 450 new kids to the sport. Now I can't find the exact numbers for their statewide membership, but I imagine it's no higher than 1500 at a maximum. That's almost 1/3 of their existing membership getting a whole day of ultimate, purely through the work of the Development Officer. I imagine most of these schools had coaching for a number of weeks, a teacher at the school who now knows and can teach ultimate. And this is just year 1!!

I think we all go with the theory (and have proof from it) that we only have to get someone to try ultimate out for them to love it. These kids won't laugh at ultimate when they get to uni, they will play at AUG's, BUML etc.

Most people are talking about the DO making their salary back. And sure, this is important because if they don't, they can't continue. However, I'm pretty sure the goal of ultimate at the moment is to raise awareness etc. because we know it will lead to more players, more money and better competition.

It would be tough for someone to do serious work at less than 20 hours, but maybe a 1/2 time DO would be good in the initial stages?

Also, as a heads up, this grant is what I was employed under, unfortunately this ship has sailed now...

Corey Edwards said...

"we should acknowledge of course that there is a debate to be had about whether or not a Brisbane-based Development Officer can deliver x% of their attention to regional areas."

Ultimately (no pun intended), you've hit the nail on the head with this one JDR. Please don't get me wrong, we fully appreciate what QUDA does for Cairns Ultimate, and as a result, we are committed to 100% registration (and AFDA fees) for our leagues this year. But there is a difference between QUDA receiving our fees and paying more fees for a development officer based in SEQ.

Ideologically, I think the development officer is a necessary step.

Practically, QUDA give waaaay more than they take; especially for regional centres.

Cynically, I think its important to know exactly what the position description would be before committing to an answer.

If QUDA said: "alright regional centres, you've had it pretty good for a LONG time, its time to pay more money." We'd probably all go "Fair Point." and pay up. You tell us its for an SEQ based dev officer and we're wary. Its the most obvious 'little brother' syndrome you can imagine ... but its true.

JdR said...

Thanks Corey. As discussed above, the 'price increase' of a QUDA fee increase in areas where they're only starting to add AFDA and QUDA fees needs to be managed.

I think we've drifted into the territory of 'what would the DO actually do?'

If the job is solely 'teach school kids', then while it *looks* limited to the South-East, it depends on whether or not you've got a travel budget. WAFDA's DO travels pretty extensively, for example, and regional schools seem quite willing to align calendars to allow her a 'road trip' and so forth. Its not hard to imagine the DO spending a week in Cairns and a week in Townsville each year (depending on the person).

Administratively, if the DO picks up/adds to some of the work the QUDA CEO and Executive presently does, then the regions should see a further improvement on QUDA's level of engagement.

I suspect the key needs to be that the DO be directed along the lines of "Well, 20% of our QUDA fees come from outside the South-East, so we want to see 20% of your effort going there."

The key to the job is going to be the QUDA Executive providing some general guidelines for the DO to work with, meaning the QUDA Exec can be pretty hands off from there - eg 'Deliver at least 20% outside Brisbane'; 'Don't bother with primary schools'; 'Focus on delivering new players to Leagues'; etc.

megzz said...

short story: i support having a development officer, but they should be able to fundraise at least part of their own salary through coaching fees and some grant money.

This was mentioned briefly, but i think it is important - Success in the role depends very much on the person, but with the right person, it could be fantastic. It is very important that it is someone who is ALREADY highly involved and motivated to make actions happen. they seem to have evolved naturally from motivated people wanting the capacity to take it further. It should be an ultimate player who is involved in or has been involved in elite ultimate at some point and preferably is still regularly involved in it in some way (including coaching) at various levels so that they stay in with the needs, problems, solutions, culture, innovations in game, recruiting etc etc. and it needs to be someone who already has coaching experience or is willing to commit to at least a medium term appointment so that time, money and energy towards training them in the role etc is not wasted.

Secondly, although i often face opposition when this statement comes out of my mouth, I agree with pottsy that (probably for a similar price increase) we could pay someone part time to do a really good job of running our leagues that might have an equal, or better impact of expanding membership... and not a token payment of a few hundred bucks. If LDs are paid properly for their time then they can be held accountable for things like budgeting, marketing, growth etc etc. These two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive though, and there is no reason why we can't do both, or that a co-operative funding solution couldn't be found.

As Jules said. QLD's growth is well behind other states and we need to do something - I would like to say that WA now have more players than QLD? ... they certainly have more leagues in the perth area than brisbane does. A price increase is fine, especially if graded, but i do think that before jacking up prices, or in combination some form of grant money should be pursued.


Simon (Ultimate Victoria) said...

Just to give a bit of perspective from a state with a Development Officer...

- Before anything else, paying a league director should be a given. We pay our LD an amount that roughly works out to $15/hr (once you include field setup/packdown, collecting and entering scores, etc.) Works out to (very rough maths here) 60c per player per week for our main league (200ish players).

- We now have two seperate employees. A Coaching Coordinator and a Development Officer. The CC does all the schools stuff. DO is working on membership growth and other projects.

- As a volunteer board member, it is AMAZING the rate things get done when someone is employed to do it. We're working on stuff now that was previously in the "3-5 years from now" folder.

- The key thing we've learned from employing a DO is that it's great teaching kids to play in schools, but you need somewhere to send them! That led to the split of the role into two, and working on club development (incorporation) so we have somewhere to point people to.

- New leagues should be the #1 priority of every state in Australia. Leads on from my previous point - no good getting the word out if there's nowhere for people to play. A paid DO is great for doing the legwork on this. It is a LOT of work for a volunteer, but it is 10,000% easier (I did the maths on this and it checks out) for someone who can dedicate 2-3 full days a week to getting it happening.

tl;dr - pay league directors, employ someone to start new leagues

Mat Ryan said...

Response to Stu and anyone else who is following the discussion:

BUML actually lost $1300 last season. It actually isn't the big earner that it appears on the sufrace. The figures shown in Adilia's spreadsheets don't highlight the pending expenses which all come at the end of the year. So the $24K cash at bank figure needs to factor in $12K of field hire expenses which aren't displayed in the spreadsheet.

In order to generate profit we need to charge more. What we do with that profit ... well that's the question.