For the last few months, we’ve been talking about affiliating the club with the BMC. We’re now getting ready to submit our application to the BMC and, as part of this, we’re asking everyone to fill in a membership form and make a small annual payment to the club.
We know it’s a change, and we know that climbing is expensive enough without being asked to pay for something that was previously free! I just wanted to quickly run through why we’re doing this, what the benefits for the club are, and what it all means for the future of our friendly group.
Who are the BMC and what does affiliating the club with them mean?
The BMC (British Mountaineering Council) are the official body for hillwalking, climbing and mountaineering. They work hard to support climbers and raise the profile of climbing in the UK and are well regarded for their work.
By the far the most significant benefit for the club, but also the least “sexy”: affiliating with the BMC means we are all covered by the BMC’s specialist combined liability insurance.
The insurance includes public liability cover, which protects everyone in the club from being sued for negligence. Climbing comes with significant risks of property damage, personal injury and death – both to ourselves as members (eg in an awkward fall, or if a belayer doesn’t catch) and to others (eg falling on another person, dropping something or dislodging loose rock onto somebody below).
We hope it never happens, but if somebody is badly injured and sues, we’re all protected up to £15m of liability. It also means, by suing, there’s a way for an injured person to get financial compensation, which we’d never be able to provide directly.
This is the sort of situation that can happen (sorry for the Daily Mail link):
This sort of accident could happen to any of us, whether we’re giving somebody advice or beta on a route, belaying, or climbing – and it starts to get a little bit more likely as the club grows and we bring in more new members and start doing more things.
Also, the owners of some outdoor crags require you to have insurance before going on their land (eg Chudleigh) – we’d really like to run some outdoor trips in the Summer, so we need to be covered in order to do this.
The good news is, once we’re affiliated, the insurance also covers every member for any climbing they do personally too, not just in club meets.
Further details from Howden’s, the BMC’s insurer.
The BMC run training courses – some free, and some paid for – to help the committee run the club, and to help us all become better climbers. These include weekend-long “How to train novice members in your club“and other courses on first aid, rescue, and scrambling and climbing skills available to all members.
Affiliating benefits the club by giving us access to the BMC’s experience and guidance, in matters like governence, liability, and safeguarding.
Everyone in the club gets BMC discounts at well-known outdoors shops like Cotswold Outdoor, Rohan, Taunton Leisure, and hundreds of other discounts.
Once we’re affiliated, you can also choose to upgrade to Individual BMC Membership at a discounted rate (meaning it’s actually cheaper to join the club and upgrade to Individual BMC Membership, than to just become an Individual BMC member outright!).
We’ve also snagged extra discounts specifically for our members: concessionary admission to Plymouth Life Centre, free gear hire at the Quay Climbing Centre for new climbers, discounted leggings from Funky Fitness (ask the committee for the code), and a special 20% off voucher from Taunton Leisure for new members.
Visibility and influence
Affiliating helps raise our profile and makes us an “official”, visible part of the climbing scene – I don’t know about you, but I loved climbing as soon as I tried it, but I could never have imagined feeling comfortable in a straight climbing group. I think it’s really important that there are groups like ours, to create a safe space for queer people in the sport, and to really drive inclusivity forward.
Supporting the sport
By affiliating with the BMC, we’re supporting the good work they do for all climbers, including their access and conservation work and equipment failure investigations.
Why do we have to pay, and where does the money go?
The BMC charge an annual fee – currently £20.25 per member, rising slightly to £21 for 2023 – to cover the cost of affiliation.
This is exactly the same as the amount we’re asking everyone to pay! We’re asking everyone to pay the bare minimum and don’t intend to make any surplus.
What does this mean for the future of club?
We know registering and paying to formally join a climbing club could feel like a big change. Don’t panic, there are no plans to radically change the club!
We’re still the same friendly people, and want to keep the same friendly, welcoming atmosphere we’ve always had. There’s no plans to change how any of our sessions are run.
We also don’t want to exclude anybody. We’ll keep running Beginners’ Nights, and new members can try the club (and be covered by our insurance) for free up to 3 months without needing to pay – more than enough time to get a feel for climbing, learn new skills, get to know people in the club.
All in all, all the good bits of the club will still be here, but with some great benefits, and with the insurance protection for us to do even more.
What do I need to do?
We’re asking everyone who’s been climbing with the group to take a quick look at our club rules, fill in a membership form, and pay a £20.25 membership fee by bank transfer (you’ll be sent a reminder of the bank account details after filling in the form).
Membership renews every year, so in the new year (January 2023), we’ll ask everybody to pay for the year ahead.
That’s all there is to it!