I will start this reply by saying that I have great respect for everyone who works so hard on a voluntary basis to run this sport. I think it is great and I only wish that I had more time to be able to contribute more! I would like to thank everyone who gives up their time, energy and resources to make it a great sport.
I can't argue with ceebee's reasoning and it stacks up for div 1 and premier races, where costs of venues are usually high and there are additional costs such as timing teams and judging teams, and there aren't additional revenue streams such as camping, catering and car parking. As I stated the sport has to be sustainable and if entry fees need to rise then I support this. It must not be the case that clubs are losing money by running races, they should be making a modest profit in order to ensure that the incentive is there to continue to run races.
HOWEVER, I am much more concerned with the lower divisions, I have just spent an hour on the river with a group of 12 paddlers who are in division 2, 3 and 4 and these are the ones who we need to ensure continue in the sport.
The proposed increases are 19% at division one and premier which is hefty but understandable. At division 2 it is 72%, at div 3 51%, and division 4 is 56%. Bearing in mind this is a major increase in the entry fees I assume that the research and data supporting it must be out there somewhere? How many races at each division are not making a profit, (are not sustainable?) and why are they not making a profit. The obvious one is venue hire (toilet hire), but also calendar clashes will have a bearing (as per the minutes of the last meeting) as will geographical location. What was the calculation which came to deem that 72% increase in division 2 fees is necessary.
I also assume that some market research has been conducted to ask the question to paddlers (and parents) of "if we increase the fee to this much next year what effect will that have on you in terms of whether you will attend more, the same or less races?" the fee proposals are in the August minutes so there has surely been an opportunity for this type of consideration to have taken place.
Many of the costs of running a race are fixed and do not vary depending on the number of competitors. At lower divisions it is extremely rare that the published limit is reached. The cost of hiring a venue, toilets, prizes etc. to run a race for 100 competitors for a weekend is very similar to the cost of doing the same for 200 competitors, so participation in the sport needs to be grown.
It has been said that the cost of entry fees is only a small part of the cost of a weekend's competition. This may be the case for division one and premier where paddlers are travelling long distances and staying off site in hotels or commercial campsites but this is not the case in the lower divisions. In the lower divisions it is common for more than one member of the family to compete at some level (as per Steve Holmes comment), the journeys are usually less than about 2 hours or 100 miles each way (£30) and camping (£20) the preferred form of accommodation, entry fees for say 2 paddlers, for two days with one paddler competing in K1 and C1 in division 2 would now be £90, nearly twice as much as the other associated costs (excluding food). To put this in context, my two children and I are going paddling on the dart for two days this weekend for a cost of £108 including fuel, accommodation and food!
Without a doubt if the fees increase in line with this proposal we will attend less races, we will paddle just as much but will compete less. If it drops below a certain number of races then it will be pointless competing which will be a real pity, but life will go on.
In summary I love this sport and I want it to be sustainable, however, as you will have guessed I think that the proposed fee increases are too big a step at the lower divisions and will result in less participation, which may make them counterproductive. Could an alternative proposal be made with a more modest increase in the basic fee and an increase in the value of the maximum enhanced fee be made? I do not have the information to determine what the correct fee needs to be to ensure that races are sustainable. I know that our club's division 3 and 4 race is profitable, but have no recent experience of running a division 2/3 race to determine this.
Of course I might be wrong about all this in which case if the proposal goes through as it stands I will just have to take it from there.