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Games Workshop behaving poorly towards the GCN? Don’t believe it.

September 22, 2015

downloadThe Gaming Club Network in the UK released a statement yesterday politely slamming Games Workshop and giving reasons for why they can no longer work with them. I’m calling bullshit on it.

To anyone who knows me in person, they know I’m not really a fan of Games Workshop’s practices and I though I like the company, I won’t stand up for them. But the Gaming Club Network’s statement is, to put it rather bluntly, an erroneous piece of crap.

So let’s break this down as if it were a case study.

The Defence

The GCN’s stated reasons for not being able to be partners with GW come down to four key requests by GW:

1: That all Council Members and Committee members of clubs be asked to undergo DBS checks.
2: That these should take place even within clubs that do not allow members under 18.
3: That the GCN sign an undertaking to do this.
4: If the GCN does not agree to the above, GW requested they instead change their membership requirements to only accept clubs whose members are 18 and over.

These three simple asks (and one that is a little less simple which I’ll come to later) are too hard for an organisation that purports to be best gaming network in the UK. Let’s go through them reason by reason.

The Prosecution

Reason 1: That all Council Members and Committee members of clubs be asked to undergo DBS checks.

Call it what you want, but this is basic practice with almost every club that deals with children or vulnerable adults (see reason 2) these days. Clubs composed of volunteers that cover the rough same niche like the scouts are more than happy to do this.

So why is it hard for the GCN to do? In their piece they list administrative costs and the costs for the DBS checks themselves. Working in a field which is heavily involved in recruitment, I can tell you that DBS checks for volunteers (of which by the DBS’s definition, the majority of clubs would fall under) are free. If the GCN is run by volunteers as they say, then they shouldn’t be paid for their time and so shouldn’t incur the fee themselves. So the entire claim is a spurious line of reasoning at best and an outright lie at worst.

If we assume the job of processing all these DBS falls to one volunteer then there is a reasonable argument that it puts that person out of hours that could be spent on other things. Lets follow that.

In my day job I process roughly 200 DBS applications a year. Erring on the generous side, I’ve calculated that I’ve spent between 40-50 hours dealing with DBS applications in that time, the majority of the work being done by the applicants themselves now, as an organisation is only obligated to record details of the applicants DBS details once the check has been completed and to see the original DBS certificate and evidence themselves.

These checks have an unofficial rule of needing to be renewed every three years, but it isn’t mandatory unless you start a new job and aren’t signed up the DBS update service (which makes them portable between organisations as long as that person is fulfilling a similar role).

The GCN website lists 91 clubs who are currently paying membership, which would mean that by following GW’s request, three members per club have to have DBS checks done (the minimum number needed for a committee to be formed to abide by the GCN’s rules). Let’s be generous and say that one volunteer has to process all 273 checks every three years themselves and that an additional 200 checks are carried out over that same time for clubs who don’t end up joining the GCN for various reasons/ the GCN committee themselves.

Using my metric that 200 applications a year takes 40-50 hours (and I’m going to assume for additional time taken by the GCN volunteer despite the lower application figure as it isn’t their main job like mine) that comes out to between 90 – 120 hours over three years. That’s still just an average of less that one hour a week spent on processing DBS checks by that one person.

Less than 1 hour a week shouldn’t be too hard for the best gaming network in the UK if they are serious about protecting the clubs under their banner.

Conclusion: GW are in the right here.

Reason 2: That these should take place even within clubs that do not allow members under 18

I’m not sure if people realise it, but you can be over 18 and still fall into a vulnerable category. Adults with learning difficulties or disabilities fall under this and are called vulnerable adults.

Of the four clubs that I have attended long term in my time gaming (each club between 10-30 members) at least one of each clubs members was a vulnerable adult. I couldn’t say this as representative of the majority of clubs in the UK. But in the case GW are being the responsible ones here, asking the GCN to allow for this to protect both GW and the GCN’s back’s legally should something happen.

Again, coming back to the figure listed above – less than 1 hour a week shouldn’t be too much for a club that wants the best for all the clubs under it’s banner.

Conclusion: GW are in the right here

Reason 3: That the GCN sign an undertaking to do this

This is where we come to the real reason for the GCN’s not wanting to be associated with GW anymore. Signing a contract absolves GW of responsibility to a degree to and legally ties the GCN into making sure all it’s clubs are up to scratch when it comes to protecting its more vulnerable members.

As the above calculation shows, it’s a minimum amount of time needed and the rewards verses the risks are stacked in the rewards category. The GCN already should already sign an agreement saying that any and all evidence or DBS certificates they store on their records are accurate and have been seen by the member of the GCN committee who is responsible for it. It isn’t much of a step further to then assume responsibility for monitoring those clubs to make sure they are in line with these ideas, as currently at least three members of each club under the GCN banner are having DBS checks carried out on them anyway.

GW are in the right here again. They could have done it more diplomatically – strong arming someone into doing something with a legal contract in place is far from it. But if it avoids a scandal where both the GCN and GW are accused of endangerment of children or vulnerable adults, the damage to the reputations of each organisation or individuals within them long term would be greater than the work involved to comply with minimal safety standards.

Conclusion: GW are in the right.

Reason 4: If the GCN does not agree to the above, GW requested they instead change their membership requirements to only accept clubs whose members are 18 and over

Now this is the point where I say GW, whilst just being over cautious, are in the wrong here completely. With an organisation that involved in a niche where kids are probably going to be around at least 90% of the time, it is simply not feasible for the GCN to accede to this ultimatum which will stop them collecting membership money from a good proportion of the clubs under their banner currently.

But, and this is the key point, GW only requested this. It wasn’t a cast iron ‘do it or else’ threat, at least not according to anything the GCN have published in their statement. I know things are rarely actually termed these ways legally and we will never know how much pressure was put on the GCN to accede to the demands of GW. But we also must guess that the GCN finding the first three requests unacceptable may have forced GW’s hand.

Frameworks like this are usually developed gradually and I cannot see any company throwing out the fourth request to start with, even with GW’s lawyers seeming to take a hardline on things of late. If GW did, then it changes the whole dynamic and you can see why the GCN may have reacted so negatively to this. But the two assumptions mentioned are mere speculation on my part.

Conclusion: A bit more muddled, but I’m siding with the GCN on this.

My personal experiences and biases

As mentioned before, I’ve been a member of four gaming clubs in my time in the wargaming hobby. I won’t mention which ones to as I am keen not to embroil them in this discussion. But needless to say, all four were members of the GCN at one point and no longer are, for the reasons that the GCN were disorganized, didn’t offer much to help the development of their community with other clubs or that they could even be bothered to be cordial to the clubs.

Even casual discourse about the GCN online will find many people who agree that the perception of them and the way they conduct themselves is the opposite of organised and professional.

Conclusions

It seems to me, given all my encounters with them, that the GCN are very poorly organised. A number of reasons have been mentioned as to why they have parted ways with GW, but even cursory inspection of those reasons debunks them. It seems that it was signing a contract asking them to be held accountable to ensuring accurate records and checks were carried out that was the problem. For any even mildly organised group this wouldn’t be a issue and the GCN are always keen to display themselves as one.

The GCN have never had a great image and whilst they may be committed to now to turning that reputation around, that they are unwilling to commit to the minimum amount of protection for children and vulnerable adults that any national group of their size are happy to do doesn’t inspire confidence.

Given GW’s current poor reputation amongst the wargaming community (which is nosediving to the point of shareholders noticing), it seems to be a great time for the GCN to cut ties with GW, whilst letting the current animosity towards the company shield them from any real criticism.

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2 Comments
  1. You made some very valid points here. I’d read the statement from the GCN already and I took it at face value but you’re points have certainly put it in something of a different light. I do feel GW will lose out on this break in the long run though and indeed the hobby as a whole will. The GCN, for all the faults outlined here, is an excellent recruiter of new, young gamers to the hobby, as a 16 year old myself this is certainly something of some importance to me! I hope the animosity between the two organisations can be sorted out, for once I’m siding with GW on this one.
    Thanks for clarifying on this issue
    Frontline Armchair

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