Dear NRA Member,
It is our opinion that the NRA is purposefully misleading you, and in cases blatantly lying, in order to paint a one-sided picture at the expense of yet another tenant on camp. What is worrying is that these are the deliberate actions of a man who is CEO of a major UK charity. It saddens us greatly that a Charity will go to the lengths and depths that the NRA do in order to pursue what seems to be hidden agendas, as they continue their threatening and bullying behaviour of other businesses on camp who pay substantial rent to the NRA. Hopefully some of you get to read and share this on social media before the NRA continue their propaganda.
Every story has two sides so allow us to clarify some details. Please bear in mind that we are in litigation against the NRA so are reluctant to be drawn into public confrontation, but have little option considering the incorrect and defamatory comments made by the NRA which are highly regrettable as well as completely inaccurate.
BSG Response: Yes, BSG is a private family business run by a father and son and many loyal, hardworking staff. Both Anthony and Alexander are passionate about the outdoors and are keen rifle shots, having built Scotland’s 1st indoor electronic 100m full-bore rifle range, given the lack of available facilities in the country. Anthony Roupell purchased Bisley Shooting Ground (BSG) in 1998, starting a new lease in 2000 on the basis that from the outset, the NRA acknowledged the objective of giving BSG security for up to 40 years. Over the initial years substantial capital and investment was committed to the company to salvage it from the huge losses incurred under NRA management. Today BSG pays good rent to the NRA, who have no commercial risk.
BSG Response: This is an outright lie. BSG accounts indicate no such thing. This is another example of Andrew Mercer twisting and spinning a narrative. Bisley Shooting Ground’s profit is a tiny fraction of what the NRA suggest and we are led to believe, is less than half of Andrew Mercer’s annual salary! For those who stop to think about what Mercer writes, they may note that he has used current assets in isolation, with no reference to current or long-term liabilities. He is therefore deliberately misleading the NRA members and public at wide. Further to this, Mercer has also ignored that total equity and net current assets have actually been declining in recent years and that Bisley Shooting Grounds’ accounts include the accounts of our Scottish subsidiary. Once again this is deliberately misleading and aimed to provide false information to the public by indicating a hugely inflated profit figure. Mercer must know he is misleading the public as he was presented with BSG financials as part of a proposal in 2018. In any case BSG’s profit is less than the annual rent we pay the NRA.
To make matters worse on Facebook, one of the NRA Trustees James Harris, who is Chairman of the Shooting Committee, decides to further attempt to defame the Roupell’s and provide false account, going as far as belittling our small family businesses’ crowdfunding efforts to raise funds to litigate against the NRA. Bear in mind the NRA’s last legal battle (which they lost) we estimate cost the Charity over £250,000! Further to Andrew Mercers misleading post, NRA Trustee Mr Harris writes in the comments: “that is a very good account of the situation. The crowdfunding is an attempt to squeeze money out from the Shooting community in order to give BSG an even better profit margin…I mean how can they possibly survive on a mere 300k per annum…. 😀”. Gary Alexander, another NRA Trustee writes “Do people understand this is a privately owned business making in excess of £300,000 profit a year at the expense of the charity ?…Why would anyone line the pockets of the business against a charity required by law to do its best for the shooters of this country?” It is quite staggering that this is the conduct of NRA trustees and therefore hardly surprising that the Charity Commission are investigating the organisation with governance concerns. One really should ask if these individuals are fit for purpose. NRA Members may well wish to ask why Mr Harris, who runs the Target Shotgun discipline, a sport that has no charitable connection and does nothing to fulfil the purpose of the NRA, is a senior trustee of the NRA? He appears to be singularly unqualified for such a responsible position. (Please note we have nothing against Target Shotgun as a discipline, but are merely pointing out it does not seem to have any charitable connection and as such its Chairman seems unqualified to be an NRA trustee).
BSG Response: Timeline
March 2017 BSG approached Andrew Mercer regarding the renewal of their lease due on 1st July 2019. Discussions on the matter start.
March 2018 Andrew Mercer asked BSG to consider taking on the NCSC formal disciplines as part of their renewal. BSG since found out that Mercer had no right to offer the Formal Discipline layout to BSG because to do so would breach the conditions of the gift from Sport England which state that the layout will not be leased or sold to another party. Furthermore, Sport England have a debenture on the layout.
June 2018 Alexander Roupell sends BSG’s proposal, as requested, to Andrew Mercer who gave his word that it will be passed to Trustees prior to an upcoming trustee meeting in June.
5th July 2018 Alexander Roupell asks Mercer for confirmation that the proposal has been sent to NRA Trustees. Mercer responds that he has not and will not. What right does he have to withhold such information from the trustees?
6th July 2018 Alexander Roupell sends BSG’s proposal, on an open basis, to all NRA Trustees and the NRA Chairman, offering to meet and discuss further with them. To date there has been no response from any of the trustees…
BSG Response: On 11th July 2018 despite being in negotiations regarding a lease renewal the NRA suddenly confirm that they are not renewing our lease and intend on running the sporting clay operations from 1st July 2019. BSG respond saying they are surprised at this notice given they were in negotiations with the NRA, and that in any case BSG have a historic right to renew.
BSG Response: Given the complete refusal of the NRA to have constructive dialogue with BSG, and the NRA’s blind persistence to take over the BSG family business despite the NRA acknowledging the historic objective of giving BSG security for up to 40 years, BSG had limited options. BSG told the NRA multiple times that they would not vacate possession and that they were open to sit down and negotiate with the NRA. On 25th June 2019 NRA CEO and BSG’s MD Alexander Roupell met, however the NRA once again refused to discuss the renewal, instead confirming that they intended to take possession of the ground on 1st July and threatening to claim damages against BSG. BSG’s only solution was to secure a court injunction against the NRA to prevent them taking over the business until the courts had decided on the matter. As such BSG continues to trade as usual. The NRA have been employing individuals since January for the purpose of taking over BSG, these individuals are still employed, costing further charitable funds, and to do what? For some reason the NRA have still not taken down their now misleading signs on camp saying that BSG’s grounds are ‘under new management from 1stJuly’.
BSG Response: In meetings with BSG the NRA CEO has said that the NCSC sporting clay operation is not fit for purpose, is getting tired, needs to be significantly juiced up, and that some of the layouts aren’t so well thought out! We therefore leave it to you to decide if this sounds like a successful operation. Furthermore, when Mercer offered the NCSC to BSG he stated the company was making a substantial profit. Seeing how he has manipulated BSG’s figures, NRA members may wish to look into the NCSC accounts in detail.
MORE NRA SPIN
In more signs of NRA spin Mercers recent press release states: “BSG acceded to NRA demands that the dispute be resolved at Court at the earliest opportunity”. BSG haven’t acceded to anything, it is us who issued proceedings against the NRA, taking them to court, and are keen to find a swift solution, ideally one achieved through sensible negotiation.
NRA FURTHER CONFUSES ITS MEMBERS
To further confuse NRA members and the general public, NRA Chairman John Webster made some extraordinary comments at the NRA AGM on 25th May 2019 (link to minutes here: https://nra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/AGM-Minutes-2019-1.pdf)
p.31. NRA Chairman John Webster states: “If we stopped sporting clays tomorrow, we would probably get that income back just from the increased full-bore shooting that we could undertake on the righthand side of Stickledown and on Century”. To this point BSG would clarify that the NRA have 84 days where they can close BSG’s Cottesloe Heath ground to allow for increased full-bore shooting on Stickledown and Century. In the last decade the NRA have not used all their available days per year, and in the last 3 years have chosen to use 3-4 of these valuable days (meant to help increase availability on rifle ranges) to host Target Shotgun events run by previously mentioned NRA Trustee James Harris. So, the NRA are themselves further restricting rifle shooting on their own ranges. Doesn’t this seem strange? On the NRA’s Facebook, when they thought they were taking over BSG they wrote “We will continue using Cottesloe Heath and Long Siberia predominately for sporting clay shooting – clay shooters are very welcome at the NRA’s Bisley Camp”.
Webster then goes on to say: “However, if we were to take that operation in-house, and if we were to be as successful as we think we can be, and I don’t necessarily think that running a sporting clay operation is as difficult as all that [the italics were what was said but this was conveniently left out of the published minutes! All the stranger given the NRA’s poor history trying to run Bisley Shooting Ground in the 1990’s], we could be generating, for the membership, somewhere between £250,000 and £350,000 a year. I would rather that money comes to us, rather than the shareholders of Bisley Shooting Ground. It’s that simple”.
Is it really that simple? There are far too many ‘ifs’ and wildly speculative figures for which no apparent due diligence has been done. When Anthony Roupell took full control of BSG in 2000 he took on £300,000 of NRA debt and has rebuilt the business from that to what it is today. Our message to Mr Webster is to please negotiate sensibly with BSG, there are great opportunities in us working together. Our door is open for productive negotiation.
SOMETHING FOR NRA MEMBERS TO CONSIDER
BSG believe they have a legal right to renew. Given the NRA’s determination to take over the business, and their complete unwillingness to discuss and avoid further litigation, BSG’s only option was to issue proceedings. The outcome will be decided by the courts unless the NRA are reasonable and decide to negotiate, which we remain happy to do and always have been.
As an NRA member, wouldn’t you wonder why the NRA is looking to spend such vast sums of money on sporting clay shooting, totally unrelated to the charity’s purpose? The NRA would forego BSG rental income and need to finance the building of the layouts and necessary machinery (BSG have 200 traps at RRP £1,000-£5,000 each), whilst incurring huge legal costs just after the unsuccessful litigation with the Artist’s Rifles? Bear in mind that, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph at the time, Andrew Mercer, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the NRA, said: “I can confirm NRA Trustees are entirely confident that their actions have been in the best interests of the Charity and fully compliant with the charitable Object”. It is staggering, setting aside the pain and suffering inflicted on their tenant the Artists Rifles, that trustees thought spending around £250,000 on litigation to end up with a rent, set by arbitrators, less than what they were offered before litigation years earlier, was in the best interests and compliant with the charitable object. Could this happen anywhere other than the NRA? Would the trustees have done the same with their own money? Note this was said before the Charity Commission decided to investigate the NRA. The 2019 Charity Commission report has now been made publicly available by various parties. The report covers many issues the Charity Commission has with the NRA including the cost of legal fees, responsibilities of trustees, and that the NRA Charity has engaged in activities that do not fulfil charitable purposes, to name a few.
Why all this senseless litigation (there are at least 4 other clubhouses that have been in litigation with the NRA) rather than working together productively with all tenants on Bisley Camp and investing more into infrastructure for rifle shooters across the country? All BSG wants is for the NRA to honour the commitments they made 20 years ago and provide the remaining 21-year lease.
There has been a dark cloud over Bisley camp for far too long. It is vital that the NRA respects its purpose as a Charity so that Bisley Camp can become, once again, a happy centre for all shooting and, in so doing help promote rifle marksmanship across the country. After all we have the 2022 Commonwealth Games upcoming. Perhaps, if not before, questions should be asked at the Bisley General meeting on Tuesday 23rd July 2019 at 9.00pm in the NRA Pavilion…