Co-op faces crisis in the most critical period of 100 year history

Co-operative Funeralcare Band is facing an uncertain future as sponsors announce withdrawal of a century of financial support and ask band to vacate rehearsal premises.

  The Cooperative has sponsored the Glasgow band for 100 years

4BR has been informed that the Co-operative Funeralcare Band, twice Champion Band of Great Britain and Scotland's most successful contesting outfit, is facing the most critical period of its 100 year existence.

4BR understands that its long term sponsorship arrangement with the Co-operative Group business will cease at the end of 2018, whilst they have also been informed that they are to vacate their current rehearsal facility in Newhouse in North Lanarkshire with immediate effect.

Serious crisis

"It's a very serious crisis,"former Band Chairman Ronnie Tennant, told 4BR.

"The band has enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the Co-op, but it's become increasingly complex over the last few years as significant changes have occurred within their business and with the running of the band.

It also comes at a time when the band has become much more stable and has put structures in place to maintain its position as arguably Scotland's most consistent elite level competitor at major championship events."

Community link

He continued: "With such a proud and important history — one that celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, it's of vital importance that we try to maintain a link that has given the band a worldwide identity and helped provide the Co-op with such a positive link to the community."

Ronnie, along with other high profile supporters were made aware of the situation in the last few weeks, and have since undertaken a determined effort to find a solution to what could be a potentially terminal outcome.

He added: "The future can be very bright if things can be resolved. We have gained significant high profile support, but we must now present that as a coherent and well thought out case for maintaining a link that can be beneficial for both the band and its historic sponsor."

Co-op CEO responds

The matter has since been brought to the attention of Co-op Chief Executive Officer Steve Murrells, who in replying to their latest correspondence stated that he did not "underestimate the success of the band, both musically and in creating opportunities for young Scottish musicians", and that he consequently did not "uphold this decision lightly".

However, he also reiterated that the Co-op was, "…in the process of re-assessing our entire expense base, from bottom up. This is the only way we will establish a model of operating that ensures that our Coop is sustainable and we can continue to invest in both our colleagues and the communities in which we operate."

He added: "This process is not easy and tough decisions have been made across the board in relation to colleagues and suppliers as well as associates such as yourselves."

Double National Champion

The band was formed 1918, drawing its players from the then CWS factories in Glasgow. It has won the Scottish Championship a record 32 times, and became the first Scottish band to win the National Championship of Great Britain title in 1990 — a feat repeated in 1996.

They have twice won the All England Masters International title, been runner- up at the European Championship, three times a podium finisher at the British Open (most recently as 2013) and claimed the Grand Shield. The band has also won innumerable domestic honours — including five Scottish Open successes.

We have gained significant high profile support, but we must now present that as a coherent and well thought out case for maintaining a link that can be beneficial for both the band and its historic sponsorRonnie Tennant

Unique role

"To say the position is serious is an understatement,"Ronnie continued.

"I've been in discussions with a number of prominent people who hold the band and its contribution to the Co-op in the highest regard.

They recognise the unique role the band has played in maintaining strong community and educational links over many years and the ability to be such a positive example especially for youngsters — but we are approaching the eleventh hour here.

I and others will continue to give everything to help the band — but unless support is forthcoming one of the greatest names in Scottish banding is in very serious danger of disappearing for good after a century of being a beacon of musical excellence."

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