New Club Chair, John Ball gives us his thoughts as the new season is about to start...
"As I pen these notes, the long hot weather is giving way to more mixed conditions including rain to start softening our pitches– a blessing for those looking forward to some fine rugby in Cow Lane in the coming season. The fixture lists for seniors, minis and juniors have all been completed and posted in the clubhouse. Our coaches have their programmes well advanced and training has been in full swing for the senior squad for many weeks. On behalf of the whole club, I take my hat off to those who have worked so hard in the sweltering summer to maintain and improve their fitness.
The level of activity amongst all levels of the playing and coaching staff make me confident that we can look forward to a season of excellent rugby as the 1st XV strive to convert last season’s near miss into promotion. They started on Saturday 12th August with a pre-season friendly at Derby – a club in the equivalent league to ours in the Midlands. The result was a narrow 29-27 defeat but no real significance should attach. Remember our 2017 pre-season XVs tournament won by Towcester who ended up being relegated. Unfortunately 1st team stalwart, Tom Newton, dislocated his shoulder so we wish him well in his recovery. It is equally pleasing to see the work going on to develop young local talent (and some from further afield) in our mini/junior sides since they are the TRUFC’s future.
From mini and juniors - our season starts on 2nd September at 10am with training throughout September. The first fixtures are Henley on Sunday 7th October. Girls’ rugby for 11 to 13 year olds launches on 9th September at midday with free taster sessions on 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th September.
Also on the playing front, Dan Boniface, our Director of Rugby is looking for help in two respects. First, the indisposition of the 2nd XV Manager for health reasons means that he is currently looking for somebody able and willing to cover that important role; secondly, he is looking for a camera operator (ladies welcome) to film the senior matches so that they can be reviewed after the event and lessons learned. Those who want to know more or think they can help should please contact Dan direct. No special photographic skills required –just the ability to follow the game.
Summer activity has not been confined to the training ground and gym. Steve Hayes, decided to step down before the June AGM hence you are now hearing from me. I wish to thank Steve for his hard work and we look forward to seeing him on the touchline this season.
Before Steve stepped down he made some excellent appointments to which I am very grateful. Hugh Logan as Treasurer and John Stevens as his assistant. The work these two have put in have been immense as we strive to put the club back on a solid financial footing. There have been some difficult decisions but process is now in place plus we have now appointed a procurement officer, Matt Adams, who complements the strong Treasury team.
Two years of losses and a further (but smaller) loss anticipated for 2017-18 mean that our assets (basically the ground and clubhouse) were largely offset by debt and liabilities. Liquidity has been maintained through loans in the order of £40k which we need to pay back.
Never before have we accounted for every penny in and out of our accounts and whilst it seems excessive it is enabling us to budget accurately and also make the money we receive work better for us, gift aid being an example. This is no different to how you would run a business and this is how we should treat the club. Once we come through this period we want to invest in Rugby and our facilities.
I am very pleased Stephen Wooler has been appointed Honorary Club Secretary. Steve’s legal background and experience in public administration is going to be a great asset to the club. He has put together a team including Paul Lamberth and Tim Petty a mere forty years after Steve first served in that capacity.
He comments how much more complicated the task is today. He will use his position to increase transparency – a need identified by many in the club survey. At the AGM the Club Constitution (2013 version) was described as no longer fit for purpose. It had only ever been intended as a stop gap until the club assumed charitable status – a route the club started down and did not complete. As promised at the AGM, the Management Committee has established a Constitution Review Group to take a completely fresh look at the options and bring forward recommendations. Stephen is leading the work assisted by Hugh Logan (Treasurer), Nigel Taylor (Membership Secretary), Tim Petty, Giles Cadge, Simon Kirk and Rob Bray. The issues are many and complex. Once the group has some emerging findings, there will be a full consultation with members. In the meantime, any member interested in what is a quite technical and complicated topic who suffers insomnia or is short of reading matter should email Stephen (email@example.com) and he will happily share the group’s initial issues paper and supporting documentation.
New Executive Management Committee
A real strength of our club is the number of loyal and dedicated members and supporters prepared to rise to such a challenge. The new Management Committee elected in June benefits from considerable new blood as well as the experience of longer-serving members. Together with other volunteers, they are working hard to strengthen both the finances and the running of the club. Things will remain tight for at least the next season and possibly longer. The management committee see in the results of the survey conducted by Alastair Langan the strong desire to improve the facilities and develop the club – as well as to create a more cohesive organisation. We remain ambitious for the medium and long term but the progress members want can only be achieved by getting our finances and administration on a sound footing. THAT IS THE KEY PRIORITY.
Many of the changes will be behind the scenes. We are already becoming more structured and collegiate in the way we runs things. Much work has been done through the introduction of budgetary controls, profiling and monitoring expenditure to control our expenditure. But that is only one side of the equation.
Simon Mann has been working tirelessly to sell advertising; attract sponsorship and encourage corporate donations. We thank him. Rob Bray has begun work as Head of Sponsorship and Fund Raising and will work with Simon to develop further and more ambitiously the generation of income. That will include reinvigorating the Lotto Club – as to the most recent draw, see later. Fundraising should also be fun and Rob will be working with Sam Clapham and John Preston in the seniors and colleagues from other sections who will be organising a number of social events through the season – so crucial to the life of the club.
Whilst most of this has been below the radar, other work will be more obvious. Much of it is aimed at strengthening our finances and inevitably the quality of rugby and coaching on offer from top to bottom does mean we have to increase revenue. No increase in subscriptions has taken place this year but members will notice a modest increase in some bar prices at the start of the season. Even so we will remain competitive and cheaper than pubs in Tring.
Although there is no increase in subscriptions, there will be a modest change to arrangements for VPs designed to maximise the benefit from the gift aid scheme. Given that is an honorary position and being a VP confers no additional benefit or privilege over and above those of social members, individuals will be invited to the pay the standard social membership subscription. Those choosing to make significant additional donations will be invited to become VPs on a seasonal basis. The donation will attract gift aid relief. Martyn Kirk will continue to co-ordinate. After the constitution review there will be alterations to the structure of subscriptions and maybe the pricing structure will increase.
The management Committee has also decided that we should fall in line with all other clubs at the level we compete and levy an admission charge for 1st XV home fixtures. Those who travel to away fixtures are already used to that. It will be £5 and Martin Dean has agreed to be responsible for administering the scheme. For those attending the pre-match lunches, the charge will be incorporated into an (increased) ticket/luncheon price.
Bar and Food
You will also notice some changes of personnel in the clubroom. We recently thanked Claire and Graham Garlick for stepping in last season to run the bar and food but after a painstaking review we have decided to move on. We thank them both for their hard work especially at Chilfest and the Football semi-final where we took £7k.
The management committee concluded that the current arrangements for catering and bar needed change and the two functions should be split. Sandra and Rob Dorsett– who have worked the bar before- will take over and also discharge some general stewardship functions including clubhouse bookings. The catering will be handled with effect from mid-September (the first home fixture) by Adam and Claudia Phillips who provide such services at Tring Cricket Club. Dayla will be our wet suppliers and are offering generous terms to the club and also undertaking cellar improvements to ensure the beer is the best it can be when it comes out of the tap. We think that these changes along with more structured accounting should enable the bar and catering to contribute more.
The Management committee is hugely committed and determined to work towards bringing together all elements of the club in support of its determination to provide the highest standard of rugby at all ages and levels, develop its young members, provide a convivial and friendly atmosphere for those who simply enjoy rugby within a club that is financially sound and well administered. That is our mission.
In the absence of any other scheduled event, a draw was made during the management Committee meeting on 8th August. The winner was Ian Jarman with no. 185
Next Draw: in the clubhouse on Saturday 15th September which is the first 1stXV home game
We mentioned this at the AGM and we keep talking about getting more members from all sections of the club to come forward to help. We have a team in Treasury, Secretary, and Sponsorship. We are building teams in social and need help in several areas including Rugby managers for the 2s.
If you think you can lend a hand and become part of the team please let me know because whatever you skill or passion is we can find you a role – contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 16:57 - 15 Sep 2018 by Simon Ellson