USA Federation Dues (Is the price right?)

Questions about dues (the amount being charged and whether you are getting your money’s worth) have been around as long as I’ve been involved in Handball. And it’s certainly not an issue unique to handball as I’ve read and heard podcasts about complaints related to a substantial increase in USA Rugby dues a couple of years ago.

Historically, the primary reason why the vast majority of Handball players paid dues was that it was the annual pass through cost that had to be paid in order to take part in the National Championships. This was evident every year, by the check in process for athletes at Nationals where a substantial number of checks for annual membership were written on the spot. As sanctioning became a part of regional tournaments (Carolina, West Point) this membership process was added to those tournaments as well.

This actually makes a lot of sense from a simple transaction point of view. When you want to go to a movie, you pay your $9 and you enter the theater. Likewise, when you wanted to play in a handball tournament, you paid a fee to play in the tournament. The difference here is the annual membership aspect. You don’t have to join a theater federation for the right to enter movie theaters on an annual basis. If this was somehow instituted nationwide, I wouldn’t be a happy camper, but I would probably grit my teeth and pay the annual fee.

With Federation membership, many have viewed it as simply another cost for playing. This is not to say that membership had no value. Nationals was generally a well run tournament. Regional tournaments like Carolina and West Point benefited from the Federation’s help with providing some officials. The old federation also provided assistance for new clubs such as funding support for equipment purchases.

So why does USA Handball (and other sports for that matter) have an annual membership fee? Well, it does provide revenue for the Federation’s bottom line. I would argue, however, that this is not and should never be the main reason for dues. The reason being is that if you raise the cost of the annual membership to the point where it becomes a significant funding stream you risk individuals balking at the cost.

Membership dues should be viewed instead as a way of fostering a sense of community and ownership. In other words, the Federation is no longer viewed as an outside entity in which you have no say. Instead individuals start to view the Federation as “my Federation”.

The new Federation is trying to create that community and one of their latest actions in this area is their new Myspace page:

Where the new Federation may have dropped the ball is the price point for membership. Is $60/year too much to ask for? Perhaps it is, especially from the context of a new organization with no historical track record. Perhaps a $30/year price point would have been better, with the drop in revenue being made up by higher fees for sanctioned tournaments.

If an individual is not participating in any sanctioned events like Nationals (easily the most substantial benefit) I can’t blame that individual for perhaps deciding his money would be better spent on buying equipment or gym time for his club. And the same can be said for club registration. The Federation has also lowered the cost for new clubs to $200, but unless your club plays in a sanctioned tournament that money might be better spent elsewhere, especially, if your club is new and has a lot of start up expenses.

It’s a free country, of course, individuals and clubs can decide for themselves. As for me, I’m signing up for a one year membership. Club wise, though, for the Vegas Scorpions it’s up in the air and will depend on our schedule.

Have an opinion? Continue the discussion and read other views in the forum: