Chance for masters track to up its USATF income
Behind the scenes, but on a semipublic mailing list, local USATF leaders around the country have heatedly debated a possible doubling of membership fees for everyone in USATF — youth, elites, masters. Annual fees could rise to $40. USATF Grass Roots honcho Andy Martin kicked off the discussion Aug. 11, 2005, and more than a dozen others chimed in for the next two months before USATF Prez Bill Roe took steam out of the debate by saying (on Oct. 17): “I can tell you that the Board will not be making a decision on 2007 membership fees in Jacksonville, but we will all be available … to take your comments.”
Did I say local association folks chimed in?
More like tore into fresh meat like ravenous hyenas.
The arguments covered many angles, but I took note of the masters issue. Bob Fine of Florida, a retired lawyer who helped found WMA (as WAVA) in the late 1970s and served as a USATF masters chief at one time, was among those looking for a bigger slice of the pie for masters track.
First, I’ll share the original Andy Martin post and then a few reactions to that post.
On Aug. 11, with a note titled “Membership Program Restructuring,” Andy wrote:
At the December USATF Board meeting in Portland, the Board voted to have the national office work with a Membership Restructuring committee to look at the feasibility of increasing membership fees so that added revenue could be utilized to enhance existing programs and services (and create new ones) for our members and the sport in general.
Somewhat belated, I have begun work on drafting the proposal.
Of course the discussion of increasing membership fees brings up other membership related questions; such as, standardized membership fees (all associations charging the same fee), 12 month memberships (vs. calendar year memberships), permanent membership numbers.
Over the next couple of days I will be sending out “topic” emails for this group to discuss the pros and cons of specific issues/topics that need to be addressed in terms of restructuring our membership program. I think trying to tackle all of them in one email would prove to be counterproductive.
Just some food for thought before be begin, what should be some very interesting and informative dialog…In 2004, USA Swimming increased its membership fee from $25 to $40 (this was the national portion of the fee; associations add a few dollars to this fee) and experienced little-to-no “push back” from their membership. Their membership comprised of 93% youth. I realize we are not dealing with an “apples to apples” scenario but I think that we now have a national membership package that can sustain a membership fee increase as long as we can properly communicate to our members, in advance, the reasons for the increase and then deliver on the enhancements/improvements after.
I look forward to the dialog in the coming weeks on each of the topics. Moving forward and making change is not always the easiest thing but I do know that we need to continue to make improvements to what we offer our associations, members, clubs and events. To do this we need additional resources!
(End of Martin post.)
A day later, Bob Fine wrote:
At a meeting of the Masters Track & Field Executive Committee at the Indoor Championships, there was a discussion regarding the stipend received from USATF to our committee. One suggestion was that the Masters have an increase in fees that would be allocated to the Masters.
I am not speaking officially as this would have to be taken up at the Convention. I just throw it out as a possible consideration. The same might
apply to the non-elite committees.
(End of Fine post.)
Ron Jackson, a USATF association leader in Pennsylvania, responded:
Bob, I think your suggestion has merit but I caution you to watch how it is
implemented. When the United Way tried this (Donor Option) some bright
scholar just deducted the increased ‘directed donation’ from the budgeted
allocation for that group. It did not result in a significant increase in
operating revenue. If the Masters receive all of the additional funds as
well as their normal budget allocation this would probably really help the
(End of Jackson post.)
To which Fine replied:
Protestations to the contrary AAU, TAC, USATF have always geared themselves to the elite athletes. The stipend from the Olympioc Committee is strictly for the
The problem is that the Youth are our future elite athletes and the Masters
serve as coach, officials, meet organizers and club managers. The Masters
understand the reality of the situation and recognize the importance of the
elite in abtaining sponsorship. However, there is a limit. If there wasan
increase in fee with the yearly stipend to the Masters reduced, there would be a
major revolt. The Masters have basically been funding our own program. We charge an athlete’s fee at our national championships. There is much more that we can do with proper funding. We’ll wait and see.
(End of Fine post.)
Three days later (Aug. 15), New England Association honcho Steve Vaitones added:
With all due respect to masters ‘programs’ (and any other sports
committee), I am opposed to different sports or age groups having different
These sports and committees do not operate in a vacuum, either in the
organization, or with other sport groups. There are a lot of basic “bread
and butter ” services that come out of a general membership for any
organization – general office, press, insurance, website, for just a few
examples, and that goes for both local and national organizations.
start having different fees for different sports., and then try divvying
that up locally. Should our association limit involvement of a road runner
or a racewalker (or an ‘open’ athlete who is 31 years old) because he or
she didn’t sign up as a masters tf athlete?
And the reality is that the masters TF committee already has a system in
place to tax those who are going to regional and national championships – a
surcharge on every entrant who enters any championship ($10 now for either
the indoor or outdoor championships). And those are on top of any rights
fees for championships. So the masters committee looks to be doing pretty
well, thank you, in extracting funds from members as it is and is assessing
those who are using their national services which is what the increased fee
would go toward (correct?). Add another surcharge onto membership and
masters TF competitors have a far more legitimate reason to say “no mas”
than youth would have to any proposed increase to a $20 overall fee for
youth – and there is far more done with youth programs.
And I’ll put in the disclaimer that the New England association hosts
indoor and outdoor championships, and will be hosting the USA Indoor
Masters meet in 2006 for the ninth time in the past 10 years, so I’m not
(End of Vaitones post.)
To which Fine replied later that day:
The problem is with the allocation of resources. USATF has always geared itself
to the elite. $3,000,000 from the Olympic Committee is solely designated to the
My concern is with the non-elite: Youth, Masters, Associations, Officials.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with an increase in fees, although I think
that each Association has different needs and therefore may be better able to
function with a fee structure to properly reflect their needs. My problem is
what will be done with any increase in fees.
The Masters pay our own transportation and room and board. It can cost over
$1,000 to attend an event. Paying an additional registration fee would not be
that much of a hardship. However, on that basis, it seems only fair that the
increase in fees goes to the Masters’ programs. The only other alternative that
would make sense to me, would be to increase the monies going to the
Associations and let each Association decide how to spend it.
(End of Fine post.)
For the next month, in dozens of posts, debate raged on how an overall USATF fee increase would be marketed, structured, phased in, justified to members and affect associations. Several folks reported outrage at their local association meetings when the idea of a fee hike was unveiled.
On Sept. 18, Bob Fine weighed in again:
I am curious as to how much money is needed by each group and what any additional money will be spent on.
What will the NO (national office), Youth, the Associations and the Masters use the money for? There should be specific answers and specific programs.
(End of Fine post.)
Nobody answered Fine’s query. And that sums up the state of masters track financing — too many questions and too few answers, with the people in charge making grand plans but not sharing these with the grass roots.
Even though no final decision on a fee hike will be made at the December national USATF convention in Jacksonville, debate will take place that may put such a fee hike on a fast track. Masters track may benefit from this hike. I just hope our leaders are listening closely and getting their licks in as this issue makes the rounds.