Merton’s JCR and MCR are to cover the costs of last year’s Winter Ball, after it was announced that the event had made a loss of almost £8000.
Oli Koo, Treasurer of the Merton Winter Ball, explained to the college at a general meeting that the losses were a result of problems with the ticketing system as well as communication issues amongst the organisers of the ball.
The college also took a delivery of £6000 worth of Carlsberg beer the day after the ball, without the Treasurer’s knowledge. Incomplete budgets resulted in the Treasurer being unaware of required payments until after the ball. There were also additional problems with the ordering of champagne for guests.
Speaking to Cherwell, Coo said, “It was a great pity that the ball ran a deficit, given all the effort and time committee members contributed towards its smooth running both in the run up to the event and on the night itself.”
He added, “However, the two major factors which vitiated my attempts at accurate budgeting, highlighted in my ball report, were out of my hands”.
The GM was told that confusion over the Ball’s refund policy made accounting difficult. Additionally, it was thought at first that more tickets had been sold than actually had been. This resulted in a £4000 hole in the budget.
“I was told that we were legally obliged to refund all guests… This meant my budget was constantly fluctuating up to the day of the ball itself. An issue that was further exacerbated by the fact that we were still accepting payments on the day of the ball”, Koo explained.
He further reported, “There was a technical glitch on the website. This meant that a significant number of unpaid ticket orders that exceeded the seven day payment window did not expire and were, therefore, counted as paid.
“A secondary and related issue was that this glitch led to fewer sales than would otherwise have been possible; around week four, I had been told that we had sold out of tickets, whereas in fact there were many tickets that were available.”
Chairman of the Ball Committee Tim Foot indicated that the lack of sponsorship was another contributing factor to the deficit in the budgets. “The lack of sponsorship meant that we were operating on a lower income, and with higher costs, than should have been the case,” he said.
“Our Sponsorship Officer resigned at the start of Michaelmas term, at which point it was too late to seek further funds. We did negotiate discounts for our guests at Shepherd & Woodward and The Student White Tie Company, but this is the absolute minimum that could have been arranged, and sponsorship largely failed.”
Foot went on to point out that committee members had instead gone to great lengths to make up for the dearth of commercial backing by negotiating discounts with suppliers instead.
Other last minute and unforeseeable problems were remedied swiftly. When the company contracted to provide Dodgems for ball-goers was unable to deliver, Victorian carnival games were sought as a replacement.
It was also suggested by the ball committee that the common rooms might recuperate significant funds from the ball’s headlining act. Crystal Fighters were contracted to play for a certain amount of time, but reportedly failed to fill the agreed time slot. The JCR may pursue legal action if the band declines to pay the £5000 which the ball organisers have calculated that the JCR is owed.
“Whatever the outcome of the negotiations and potential court cases, I think it’s fairly safe to say Crystal Fighters won’t be coming back to Oxford in a hurry,” noted one second year. “But at least the money would go some way to cover the JCR’s costs though if we won”.
The JCR and MCR are currently planning to split the costs equally.
One first year historian noted that the JCR seemed to sympathise with the organisers. They added, “I think it would be a bit unfair to be too harsh on the ball organisers. The sponsorship was unfortunate and while some of the other hiccups were surely avoidable the committee had very little experience to draw upon – the previous ball organisers left them no information at all”.
Plans to provide the next ball committee with more information have been drawn up.
One undergraduate told Cherwell, “I think that Tim and co are forgiven despite everything. As long as the JCR still has enough funds to provide the free alcohol it does throughout the term, everyone will be happy.”