I’m somewhat embroiled in a debate about how many clubs there should be in the West Midlands. At the moment there are three big clubs: OD in Warwickshire, Chasers in Staffordshire, and HOC in Worcestershire, three smaller clubs: Potoc in the Potteries, Wrekin in Shropshire, and Coboc in Birmingham, and two university clubs: BUOC and UWOC. (A few other clubs have come and gone: Wye, Solos, AOK…) Potoc and Wrekin are pretty strong for their size: they put on plenty of events and training, and organised the recent Compass Sport Cup round at Weston Heath. Coboc, on the other hand, seems to struggle to get a lot done. I’m partly to blame for this: I live in Birmingham but have always been a HOC member. (I can’t remember how I came to join HOC rather than another club, except to say that despite the existence of Coboc, HOC has seemingly always been the biggest club in the city, in terms of membership.) And although I intend to join Coboc, I have no intention of leaving HOC. HOC’s a great club: it’s got over 300 members and organises 50+ events every year. I suspect that for most people, being a member of such a club is more attractive than belonging to a small club.

What the debate boils down to is, will orienteering develop better in the West Midlands if new clubs are formed, or if the existing clubs start “initiatives” in the underdeveloped areas? One could argue that those people who say we shouldn’t start new clubs have a vested interest in maintaining/increasing the strength of their own club. But the evidence does seem to be rather on their side: small clubs struggle to keep momentum, and there is a lot of wasted energy in the duplication of committees and so forth.

My initial reaction to the growth in orienteering in schools in Wolverhampton (and elsewhere in the Black Country) was that there should be a new club. But who exactly would run the club?? And how would agreement be reached on which areas and maps belonged to whom? A better approach seems to be a MADO-style initiative. The Hartmanns started the ball rolling in Malvern about five years ago and it’s been a great success, but it’s always been part of HOC, with no prospect of it being a club in its own right.

But, then again… isn’t HOC in danger of spreading itself too thinly? What with all the other things it’s organising, how can it effectively launch a programme in the Black Country, an area where it and the other clubs struggle to muster two dozen members between them? Answers on a postcard, please. (Sacks of cash round the side entrance, ta.)

Black Country Map Racers (not a club)

Wolvo (not a club)