Darts Leagues – Dealing with Serious Problems

A darts league can be a fun group project for a small number of people, and an enjoyable participatory activity for individuals.  Running a large dart league, however, involves real work and organization.

If the league is well organized, and has competent business, legal, and financial advisers, everything might run fairly smoothly for a long time.  But, at some point, every league runs into some sort of difficult problems (just as with any other human activity).

The most common of these serious problems can be categorized as Political or Financial.

Politics is not confined to governments.. it is a feature of any human group activity.  Someone will believe that they have a “better way” of doing things, and take action to express their views.  (Sometimes they might even be right.)  In darting organizations, this usually means that groups of darters start “taking sides” on an issue, and this can lead to new elections, a spin-off of part of the league into a new organization, or in some cases, complete collapse of the league.

There are dozens of examples of leagues splitting into two or more leagues, in most cases leaving one or both leagues much weaker than the original.  If a group is running a “money league”, such a split can be complicated and acrimonious.  Lawsuits have resulted from some of these situations.

That brings up the topic of Finances.  Leagues generally collect dues from members and sponsors, and then presumably use the funds to pay for the expenses involved in running the league.  Some leagues also pay cash awards to top darts players and teams each season.

Unfortunately, many dart leagues start off as very informal groups, sometimes without written bylaws or other organizational structure.  So, who holds the money, and who is responsible if some of it goes missing?   That is the question that has caused nightmare situations for many darts leagues.

Funds can “disappear” in many ways:  by accident, neglect, or actual theft.  Leagues are generally composed of groups of aquaintances and friends, and are rarely able to conduct any sort of credible investigation.  Even if legally-acceptable evidence is available, there is usually a reluctance to file legal charges against friends.

What are some of the ways that a darts league’s money can disappear?  Here are a few of the more common.

Accidental loss examples:

Lost or otherwise misplaced funds that have been collected by a league officer or individual.  “The envelope was on the bar with my darts, and just disappeared!” Or:  “My car/home/etc. was broken into, and the money was stolen.”

Loss due to Neglect, examples:

This is often due to incorrect amounts of money collected, or paid out.  Or, incorrect amounts recorded as being collected or paid-out (whether the funds ever existed or not).

For example:  “Our team captain said he paid $XX to (league officer) at the bar last week.”  The officer may not remember collecting the money, and no receipt was issued.  Or perhaps the team captain paid the wrong amount, then later claims to be fully paid-up for the season.  Both parties may have been drinking, and frankly, might be lucky to remember where they parked, much less who gave them money, and for what!  After such a story is passed around from person-to-person for awhile, suddenly it may seem that half the treasury has been misplaced.

Another example:  The last treasurer and perhaps some other officers quit, and several people have collected funds from darters, teams, and sponsors.  They all believe that they are helping, give the money they collect to other officers.  No one issues receipts or otherwise keep records, and pretty soon no one has any idea how much money has actually been collected, or where it eventually ended up.  In disorganized situations like this, financial mismanagement (neglect) often leads to accusations of theft.

Keeping accurate financial records is difficult enough for many large businesses, much less informal groups of darters.  Whether the funds existed or not, finding shortages in a league’s funds can lead to vicious arguments and fights within leagues.  Good book-keeping is critical for a successful darts league!

Another reason for conflict, unfortunately, is Theft.

Within small organizations, theft of money is generally opportunistic.  In other words, funds are taken on the spur of the moment, perhaps simply because no one is keeping very good track of the money.  Or, perhaps a volunteer believes that he/she is under-appreciated, and deserves to be paid.. and then just takes the money while using that as justification.

As with many thefts, someone with access to darts league funds may “borrow” a little money to cover urgent personal expenses.  Then, since no one noticed, perhaps do it again.. and again.  (This is how Bernie Madoff claims his  scam was started.)  Pretty soon a lot of money might be missing, and at this point it is not uncommon for the thief to quit the league and seemingly disappear.  It is rare for a league to recover money in such cases.

Solutions: Avoiding political problems is difficult, but most money problems can be avoided by instituting good financial controls.

Get advice from an accountant, or hire one.  Accept or otherwise handle cash as rarely as possible.  Issue receipts for any funds accepted, and get invoices for any funds paid out. Strictly limit the number of people who handle funds.  Require multiple signatures to access to checking accounts (and enforce the requirement!).

Many leagues now accept credit cards & debit cards to simplify payments from darters and sponsors, and some even accept payments on their league website.  This minimizes handling of cash, although transaction fees may cost from 3% to 5%.   Funds to be paid-out should also be done without handling cash, with payments made either by check or other non-cash means.

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