End of season report
For the season ending May 2016
Last season was the final one for me as County Secretary after six years in the role. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the county and all of our clubs during this time.
Well done and congratulations to all Middlesex clubs who had successful seasons in the various league, merit table, cup, bowl and vase campaigns, from grass roots to national levels, and congratulations to those who enjoyed promotion at the end of it all.
As usual, an interesting array of overseas tour applications have passed across my desk and it is particularly pleasing to see that some of our clubs continue to organise long tours to far flung destinations. Of course, irrespective of whether a tour is in Sydney or Southend, the outcome will be the same – great fun, great camaraderie and the forging of friendships that may last a lifetime. Long may the tradition of touring continue.
Moving on to the Middlesex Rugby Standing Committees, below I have summarised their work throughout the season. The full reports from each of the committees, which contain far more information than I have room for in this document, can be obtained from the County Office should you wish to see them.
A successful 17th Club 7s was held on Sunday 1st May at the Richmond Athletic Ground with nearly 60 Clubs and student teams competing for the 10 different levels of competition. For the first time the Club 7s introduced a new competition for “Open Clubs” to compete as a qualifier to the new 24/7 Series RFU National 7s Tournament with Team Honey Badger taking the honours to compete in the regional finals at Allianz Park on July 10th. In the senior Club 7s competition The Derek Mann Trophy was won by Millfield Old Boys and in the Senior Women’s Cup, Saracens Ladies were the worthy winners of the Flynn Rose Bowl. On a nostalgic note it was good to see again the names of the traditional clubs from the old Charity 7s days as winners of various levels at the Club 7s in London Irish, London Scottish, London Welsh, Wasps and Saracens alongside Haringey, Essex Blades and Kings Crown Jewels. The tournament was once again utilised as a volunteer recognition event with a lunch being hosted by the President. Thanks are due to the Club 7s committee and volunteers who work throughout the season to ensure the clubs entering have an enjoyable and professionally run 7s competition at their chosen level.
As in previous seasons, the Community Rugby Committee has taken its meetings programme around the County, a formula that clearly works. The committee has a very wide ranging remit including Volunteers, Women & Girls Rugby, Schools, Mini & Youth Rugby, Club Development (Facilities & ClubSafe), Community Rugby and the Annual Delivery Plan. The committee works very closely with the RFU professional staff attached to Middlesex in the delivery of the various programmes, action plans and in particular the Club Sustainability programme and thanks are due to the RFU team for all of their help and assistance in working with the Community Rugby Committee.
The team which oversees all competitions within the County has worked hard to deliver a vibrant array of league, merit table and cup programmes for our clubs. Congratulations to all clubs who have been successful in their campaigns. This season, six Middlesex clubs were promoted and nine were relegated. Three withdrew from the league structure. The Chairman of the Competitions Committee extends his thanks to the LSRFUR and also all of the members of his committee, most of whom will remain in post for season 2016-17. He is however concerned at the lack of representation on the committee from Hertfordshire and will be working on improving this situation in the new season. All the competition results and statistics are shown in full on the county website.
The Finance Committee has worked diligently in looking after the County’s finances and performance against budget. The committee also works with clubs in collating annual accounts, provides assistance where required to clubs experiencing financial challenges and also oversees the investment portfolio, income from which is used to fund a significant part of the rugby delivery activities within Middlesex. The chairman of the Finance Committee would like to extend his thanks to his team and, in particular, Nicky Fielder for her hard work in the administration of the County’s accounts system on a day to day basis.
Derek Renton has settled into his safeguarding role and continues to provide valuable advice and support to our clubs. In conjunction with the RFU, an excellent safeguarding seminar was held in January at Old Deer Park which was well attended by club safeguarding volunteers but less so by club officers. Safeguarding remains an important aspect of the game and its interaction with discipline will develop further next season.
The Chairman of Governance wishes to thank secretary Mick Collins and the LSRFUR for their continued support and all disciplinary panel members who attend hearings on a regular basis throughout the year. With the increasing number of summer competitions, hearings are no longer limited to September to April. The overall case load this season has been low compared with the previous season which is positive progress, however the increasing number of incidents of poor behaviour demonstrated by coaches, players and parents involved with mini/youth and adult rugby is disappointing and a major concern. The Governance Committee will be looking to clubs and players of all ages and standards to dramatically reduce the incidences of poor conduct through active prevention measures and the reinforcing of the core principles of the game. Deterrent sanctions relating to referee abuse introduced two seasons ago do not seem to have deterred some. Over the summer the Governance Committee will be reviewing the sanctions available to discipline panels. It is possible that sanctions will be extended wider than the individuals involved.
All four groups have met regularly during the season with guest speakers appearing at some of the meetings on a subject of interest to clubs. The RFU area RDO, one of Middlesex’s RFU Council members, and a member of the LSRFUR can also be seen quite regularly at the meetings which is an additional benefit for our club representatives who attend the meetings and who may have questions to raise with them. Attendance numbers are slightly improved compared to previous seasons recently and in the new season there will be renewed focus on the remaining non-attending clubs as there are clear benefits in attending to exchange views with other clubs, share best practices and hear what the various guest speakers have to say. It is hoped that the introduction of a buffet after each of the meetings will continue to boost attendance figures.
The Marketing Committee has had a busy season with additional activities undertaken to support the Rugby World Cup. The committee has undergone several changes in personnel, with Lonsdale Leggett-Flynn taking over as Chairman at the beginning of the season, and the appointments of Simon Clarke as sponsorship manager, Stephen Leach as social media manager and Stephen Jones as county press officer. Steve Maltby has been co-opted from the finance committee to provide a point of liaison now that substantial revenue streams have been established though advertising and sponsorship. Past president Michael Barnes has joined the marketing team as the driving force behind a new membership scheme which encourages people to support the county’s efforts to develop grassroots rugby by becoming a Friend of Middlesex Rugby. A key role of the marketing committee is to support the work of the other committees within the county.
Brian O’Connor provides the link with Team Middlesex and the playing & coaching set up and next season another new committee member, Alex Pereira-Inacio, will take on the key role of liaising with the clubs and with the community rugby committee as well as providing support in the quest to bring in new sponsorship. Two editions of Middlesex Matters have been produced, as well as the county diary, a number of posters and fliers to support various events and competitions and programmes for County matches and events.
Playing & Coaching
Team Middlesex started the 2015-16 season with a number of new objectives which form part of the Middlesex Strategic Plan. The progress and results from all age groups including Team Middlesex at all age grades (U13s, U14s and U15s, U14s, U15s, U16s, U17s, U18s and U20s), the Senior Player Development Programme and Senior Teams performances as well as Women and Girls rugby activity can be found on the website. A full report, which is available from the County Office, also outlines the Middlesex Coaching activity and achievements, including the Rugby Coaching Drills Programme. The report is very comprehensive and is well worth reading by all who have an interest in the County’s extensive playing and coaching activities.
Having summarised the work of the County’s committees above, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the standing committee chairs and all of the members of their committees and sub-committees. Many thousands of voluntary hours go into completing the important work done for Middlesex Rugby each season and it is very much appreciated.
Our relationship with the RFU professional staff attached to Middlesex Rugby continues to thrive and I would like to thank the whole team for all of their hard work and help throughout the season on the various development programmes that have been delivered to our clubs and the invaluable assistance in the production of the County action plan. I have no doubt that the successful collaboration will continue in the new season. Thanks also to our RFU Council representatives Chris Cuthbertson and Rob Udwin without whom we would lack the vital conduit to all matters RFU.
Each season end brings with it the end of some people’s time as a Middlesex Rugby volunteer so it is at this point that I would like to offer sincere thanks to anyone who is moving on and leaving the committee or sub-committee that they have been attached to. Your time and effort is much appreciated. On the other side of this coin, new volunteers have joined the County volunteer team and I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you on board and I hope that you have long and enjoyable roles with the County. Of course, it goes without saying, if you are reading this and you think you might like to become a County volunteer, please do not hesitate in making contact with the County Office and we will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Sadly, as part of this report, it is always my duty to mention the passing of some of our colleagues from Middlesex County, as advised to the County Office.
Fred Ellis (Wembley RFC, Old Millhillians, Middlesex (LVP), LSRFUR), Rita Connolly (Finchley RFC) and Martin Baker (Old Haberdashers). May they rest in peace.
Finally, my personal thanks go to Nicky Fielder and Rachel Barry for their hard work in the County office, Tim Miller (Assistant County Secretary) and Inigo Churchill (Minutes Secretary), my fellow County Officers, all members of the General Committee, Management Committee and all Sub Committees and of course to the army of volunteers within the County and at our member clubs, without whom we quite simply would not have a game.
I would also like to thank all of the clubs that I have been lucky enough to visit over the past six years for making me so welcome – it was a pleasure meeting so many people around the County, many of whom I now count as good friends. I wish my successor, Dr Tim Miller, an equally enjoyable and pleasant term of office.