Historic AGM as The Kennel Club maps out future plans

At its AGM on 13 June 2023 at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema, London - with some members joining via Zoom for the first time - The Kennel Club reflected on a transformative year and mapped out its future plans that have so far been formulated as part of an ongoing and collaborative period of review.

Chairman, Tony Allcock OBE, opened the AGM by reflecting on the achievements of the past year – which have included the Buckingham Palace Garden party; a hugely well attended and viewed Crufts 2023 and the granting of the esteemed Royal Prefix.

The Chairman’s opening address spoke of the importance of being true to the Club’s core and historic values – which includes supporting and enabling the joy that comes from participating in dog activities and ensuring that all we do is underpinned by a commitment to protect and promote the wellbeing of dogs – values which are reflected in the strategic aims that were formulated last year.

However, evolution and change  - underpinned by extensive research and engagement - were the overriding themes throughout the remainder of the AGM and members were thanked for sharing their invaluable knowledge in the members and activities surveys, whose insights are helping to inform the path ahead. These surveys have been part of a host of communication and engagement initiatives, which also included an enhanced Members’ lounge at Crufts, a members’ roadshow at major dog shows and a new monthly newsletter.

Addresses from Chief Executive, Mark Beazley; Interim Chief Finance Officer, Tom Kelman and Interim Strategy and Implementation Executive, Mark Bermingham, underlined the importance and the need for a new direction, in a changing world. Amongst the challenges outlined was the 27 percent decline in dog activities and the perceptions held about The Kennel Club.

The increasing financial pressures, both long and short term – including the 40-year high inflation rates and the fall in registrations to pre-pandemic levels - were also highlighted, as a result an increase of £3 registration and transfer fees was proposed, after a five year freeze and this was approved by a significant majority.

Mark Beazley, Kennel Club Chief Executive said: “This price increase will substantially improve The Kennel Club’s financial resilience for the future. Registrations prices have remained fixed for five years which means, quite simply, that we have been spending more than we are bringing in and we may have to fall back on our reserves to fund our day-to-day costs, money that should be reserved for investment in major step changes and security for the future. This is not a sustainable situation and thank our members for the support it has given to put us on a secure financial footing.

“Alongside this the Board and the Executive team will continue to focus on developing ways for The Kennel Club to diversify and strengthen other income streams as part of progressing and implementing strategy – an opportunity I am excited and energised by.”

Proposals to improve the longer term financial footing of The Kennel Club included making better use of The Kennel Club’s assets, including its property assets. One such avenue would be to increase the possible returns – through ecological development – of the Emblehope estate and to carry out the investigations needed to realise the potential of the estate and understand its market value  - with the aim of bringing back any proposals for the Members to consider, when available. Optimisation of the Clarges Street building was also discussed, including the letting of two floors of the building and changing the configuration of the offices on the second floor. Both the changes to the Clarges Street offices and the investigations into the Emblehope estate were approved.

Members also heard about the plans being set out in the first wave of business cases, for the July Kennel Club board meeting, that will both improve what The Kennel Club does  and how it does it, with the aim of making the business more inclusive, agile, relevant and financially viable.

Amongst the proposals outlined was the need to evolve the registrations model – which is The Kennel Club’s primary source of income – to ensure that is it more inclusive but that it also structured to help improve the welfare of dogs and the standards of breeding. Additionally, Frank Kane gave a report about the work of the Non Breed Standards Working Party, which held 25 meetings between November 2021 and January 2023, and both the ‘quick fix’ recommendations and the mid to long term recommendations that will need Board approval before being included in the strategic review, were outlined. 

Training – as the most useful thing that The Kennel Club can signpost owners to after they have obtained a dog and as a potential springboard into future further activities - was highlighted as another area that needs to be strengthened and better aligned. Proposals included improving the quality of the relationship and engagement with local training clubs and the support offered – through simplified processes and better CPD.

Membership was also discussed with the need to explore the ways we can involve more likeminded people from the World of Dogs in The Kennel Club, for example through other subscription options and benefits such as potential Kennel Club social membership, whilst protecting and enhancing the experience of existing members.

Alongside these proposals were plans to change how The Kennel Club operates - which lies at the heart of the Governance and Organisational Development work that is already underway -  so that interactions with The Kennel Club are positive and more intuitive and agile. It was outlined that although there has been a vast  turnaround in customer experience with The Kennel Club, the ambition is not just for a ‘functional’ but an ‘enhanced’ experience, so that people can ‘move seamlessly through what should be not just a single interaction, but potentially a dog owning lifetime experience with The Kennel Club.

The AGM heard about the continued pace in the months ahead as the first wave of business plans – which set out proposed changes and what will be needed to deliver them, alongside the costs, benefits and risks – will be taken to the July and September boards, and an SGM in October for any changes that require member approval. These steps follow on from the significant raft of work in the past 12 months including the implantation of a corporate and departmental plans across the organization; the introduction of performance metrics; the building of change management capabilities and the continued gathering of insights and data to ensure that all changes are built on a solid foundation.

Mark Beazley closed the AGM on a note of thanks to Kennel Club staff, directors and members and by highlighting the continued need for collaboration as the skills and knowledge of everybody are lent on to jointly craft the delivery of the future plans, in the months and years ahead. The full report of the AGM will be included in the August issue of the Kennel Club Journal which will be available on The Kennel Club website.

At the AGM the following ten members were elected to the Board of Directors for a three year term: Mr PR Eardley, Mr MW James, Mr P Harding, Mr RIH Heathcote, Mr S Payne, Mrs M Reynolds, Mrs A Scutcher, Mr G Partridge - and for a one year term Mr J Bailey and Mrs A White.

Other business conducted at the AGM included the election of seven Honorary Life Members of The Kennel Club as follows:

  • Mr BM Marshall
  • Mr RD Rout
  • Mr RAW Searle
  • Mr GA Hill
  • Mr F Kane
  • Miss L Pogodzinski
  • Mr AW Young

The following four Vice Presidents of The Kennel Club were re-elected:

  • The Rt Hon Lord Fairhaven JP DL KStJ
  • The Lord Kirkham KCVO  
  • Sir John Spurling KCVO OBE
  • Professor SP Dean BVetMed MRCVS DVR