End of Season Report
For the season ending May 2023
Dr Tim Miller – Honorary Secretary
With the arrival of Summer, now is the time to reflect on the past season. As some of you know, this is my seventh year as Secretary and I am very grateful to fellow County Officers, all members of the Management Board and the numerous Sub-Committees for their unstinting efforts on behalf of the County.
We have an established sound administrative structure which is working very well. The County Office is now effectively a virtual one between Nicky Fielder, Simon Hardcastle and me. Nicky’s work, much of it unseen, is invaluable to the County and I would like to record the County’s appreciation of the excellent work she does. The County also relies on an army of dedicated volunteers, both within the County and at our member clubs, without whom we quite simply would not have a game. On behalf of the County, I would also like to thank Eddie Keal and Andy Smart for their tireless work on behalf of the County and the Game in general as RFU Council Members.
What follows are the end of season reports from members of the Management Board. Our Chairman (Eddie Keal) and Treasurer (Charles Portsmouth) will be making presentations at the AGM itself. Our clubs lie at the heart of everything we do in the Middlesex County and the Management Board and many others are focused on the support we can provide, financial and non-financial, to underpin the progress of our clubs. I therefore begin the report by looking at the progress of our member clubs.
Chair of Competitions – Andrew Smart
The 2022/23 season started with 37 clubs across Counties 1,2 and 3 Herts and Middlesex. That number had dropped by one before the season even started with Mill Hill withdrawing from the level 9 league. They were soon joined by West London who found the competition in the rejigged leagues following the FCS re-organisation far too strong from them. We then lost Finsbury Park from Counties 2, a combination of injuries, some very heavy defeats and four walkovers in the end meant that they could not continue.
All three withdrawals were instigated by the clubs themselves and they all went on to find places for themselves in the merit tables where they have been able to find a much more appropriate competition level for their players. This has provided a structure that will allow them to flourish and hopefully grow.
At the same time, two Middlesex clubs, Staines and London French who had only just level transferred to the Surrey leagues found the competition too hot and each had to be dropped one level and play the rest of the season playing friendlies albeit in a league structure. Both will continue to play league rugby next season in the Surrey Counties leagues at a level more consistent with their ability. I am delighted to report that Finsbury Park have used their part season in our merit tables to re-build sufficiently to re-join the leagues.
By the end of the season, if you had looked across our game in this part of London, you will have seen a sport – and many of our clubs – now out on their knees. We continue to see a narrowing of the player base across our game locally where clubs having to support 1st XV league competitions have been forced to draw upon players from their lower XVs to honour fixtures. This has seen a savage impact on both the Middlesex and Herts & Middlesex Merit tables which, despite re-organisation across the season, has seen little impact on the chronic walkover rates. Players play for fun, a word I suggest is in short supply in our game at the moment. Yes, of course, playing habits have not returned to pre-covid standards (although to be fair I believe you could already see the changes pre-covid but clearly accentuated by the pandemic) but this savage unforgiving structured season has accelerated those underlying problems in our game. We are now seeing their effects, not only with the players who are crying out for rest weekends, but also now on both coaches and volunteers across our game. They are asking themselves why they commit week on week when the players who they are working to support can’t be bothered to make themselves available consistently. I already know of coaches, DoRs and Administrators who are walking away from the game or certainly talking about whether they are prepared to commit to their club’s next season. The game is in crisis and whilst, of course, there are successful clubs and team, there are too many that are failing. A county with twenty 1st XVs in our merit tables, all one team clubs, plus an increasing number of our league clubs now down to one team, the decline cannot continue without seeing in the next five to ten years many of those clubs disappearing forever.
And yet, despite this, we have to acknowledge some great successes by our clubs. I mentioned at the Annual Dinner that seventeen of our clubs have picked up some sort of silverware this season in the 15 a-side game. Another four clubs were able to point to successes at our successful 7’s tournament at Grasshoppers.
Congratulations to Hammersmith and Fulham who had a quite extraordinary season. First of all, their men’s 1st XV won Regional 2 Thames and were promoted to a level 5 league for the first time in their history. Their men’s 2nd XV were champions of the Middlesex Premier MT again for the first time in their history and their men’s 3rd XV were the winners of the MMT1 play-off final. To top it all, their men were the Open Cup winners of the revamped Middlesex 7’s.
In any normal year, they would definitely be the Club of the season but this wasn’t a normal year. Whilst it is a personal choice, you have to acknowledge a quite remarkable undefeated season for Teddington men’s 1st XV. League winners of Counties 2 Surrey, they took that form into the Papa John’s Community Cup where they became champions of England at Twickenham beating the winners of Counties 2 Yorkshire Wensleydale by 53 points to 19. In the five Papa John matches against the best level 8 clubs across the country, they scored 235 points, an average of 47 points per game. A truly outstanding team and a season they can be justly proud of.
Our other league winners were Ruislip Ladies (Women’s NC3 South-East (West)), Old Millhillians Counties 3 H/M (Trophy), Actonians, Counties 3 H/M (Shield), Old Hamptonians Counties 5 Surrey. A special mention should also be made to our promoted clubs Grasshoppers Counties 1 H/M, London Scottish Lions Counties 2 H/M and Brunel University Counties 3 H/M
Congratulations also to Harlequin Amateurs who won the Papa John’s Community Cup Counties 3 and Below South Plate Final
Many congratulations also to all our Merit Table winners:
- Premier – H&F 2nds
- MT1 – Belsize Park 3rds
- MT2 – Wasps 2nds
- MT3 – London Japanese
- MT4 – Actonians 2nds
- Vets 1 – Chiswick Silverbacks
- Vets 2 – Hampstead
- MT Cup – London Cornish 2nds
- MT Bowl – Hanwell
- MT Vase – Actonians 2nds
- HMMT 4 (South) – Mill Hill
The Vets Cup final between Old Priorians and Hampstead is due to be played on Friday 16th June 2023 at Chiswick RFC KO 7.30pm
Preparations are already well underway for next season. A comprehensive survey has gone out to all our Merit Table Clubs, looking at how we can improve the competition offering and ensure that more games are played. The returns are due in by the 30th June. We will go through them in depth before we decide the formation of our merit tables and competitions for next season. We have already decided that the invitations for next season’s competition will be distributed much later than normal, well into pre-season, to ensure clubs have as much time as possible to satisfy themselves that they have enough players to honour commitments. It is much better for our competitions to add teams later than remove those who simply don’t have enough players to honour the commitments
I tried to save some costs by not asking for teams of three for each of our finals. Unfortunately, the touchline behaviour at some of our merit table finals has meant that we will have to reverse that decision. Those extra costs will have to be found by savings in the competitions’ budget in other areas. We will also be asking for minimum standards for any clubs that will host country finals days going forward. I have also applied for a one-off payment of up to £600 for six sets of portable respect barriers sets to ensure that where clubs are unable to provide pitch barriers for county finals/junior festivals we are able to do so. No matter who is the host club, these are our finals and we need to be proactive to ensure that they continue to be afternoons of hard competitive rugby, yes, but more importantly of enjoyment and fun for all those that attend.
A similar consultation across March and April took place with the thirty-five clubs that will make up the Herts and Middlesex Counties leagues for next season. However, following concerns raised about the conclusion, ” no clear mandate for change” this led to a number of appeals, including requests from some clubs to take voluntary relegation and from others to revisit the results. As a result, the Herts and Middlesex Competitions Sub-Committee conducted a long and detailed examination of the results and have accepted that their original conclusion should be revised.
The new leagues will now be 12.10,13 with Counties 3 splitting Middlesex and Herts after everyone has played each other once. There will then be two play-off games on the 6th April to determine the promoted sides with the champions determined by best points percentage across the season.
This decision was circulated with the following: “Whilst we accept that some clubs would prefer the original format circulated on the 20th April, we are confident now that we have a structure and competition offering that best protects the future of our game locally and indeed the health of the majority of our clubs.”
The London Regional Organising Committee decided at their AGM that, unlike the rest of the country who will be starting on the 2nd September, all our county leagues will start two weeks later on the 16th. For some reason, having given us the option to start on the 16th if we wanted, the RFU became more uncomfortable with this approach. However, with the leagues finishing on the 6th April, some four weeks later than last season (although that does now include Easter weekend), there is a little more flexibility next season, than was last. It is clear that the RFU has listened at least in part to what clubs were saying but whilst the Papa John’s Community Cup continues to dominate across April and May, it will never be enough.
Finally, I must thank my committee for all their hard work on behalf of our clubs. It has not been easy, but we start refreshed again in September committed to doing the best we can to support and grow the game in Middlesex but also with our partners in Hertfordshire
Group Officers Report – Andrew Smart
It continues to be challenging times for the Groups as we remain sandwiched between the extremely successful All-Clubs meetings (Competition Regulations, Tackle Height and Herts/Middlesex league consultation with our partners from Hertfordshire) and the monthly newsletter where the County has been able to get information out quickly and to as many people as are interested when necessary. We have been looking to ensure that we continue to remain both relevant and the first port of call for our clubs if they have any issues. As a committee, we continue to be extremely supportive of those other formats that the county has used so well across the pandemic in engaging with our clubs. We don’t believe that their emergence detracted from the work and importance of the Groups. In fact, we believe that the Group format far more than any other is absolutely crucial in holding the County Management Board to account, and as importantly, ensuring that there was a strong and direct communication link between the clubs and their CB. In addition, the wealth of experience and knowledge throughout the groups and clubs is best captured and utilised through the Group Format. For the County, so many of our leaders and committee members have first come to notice through the Groups and long must that remain .
This season has seen the highest number of in-person meetings since the pandemic with the balance at about 50-50 with Zoom meetings. It is very much an issue for each of the groups but I think this balance between in-person and Zoom gives the best opportunity of reaching the largest number of clubs. I am of the view that the first and last meetings of the season should be in-person and it was great to see that the other groups felt the same with the last round of AGMs/Group meetings all being held at clubs. I believe that this was the first time since just before the pandemic that this has happened.
In all, the groups ran sixteen meetings across the County. I would like to thank all those people from our clubs who supported them, and also the group officers who ran the meetings so well and finally to the management committee (particularly our President Peter Baveystock who made every meeting), for their support. There was always at least three people from the Management Board at each of the meetings and on many occasions those numbers were more than doubled. Speaking on behalf of the Groups, it is absolutely essential to the continued health of the County that visibility continues. The clubs need to know who and why decisions are being made on their behalf and of course they need to be satisfied that they are being made in the best interests of the game locally and themselves. Overall, I think this is working although if it is to be really effective, we need to increase the number of clubs regularly attending the meeting and ensure that we are attracting the real decision makers.
Anyway, I am delighted to report that all eight group officers have been voted back into post:
- South – Chair Jerry Rogers (London Cornish), Secretary Lyndon Walters (H&F)
- West – Chair Andy Brooks (O Isleworthians), Secretary Nick Dance, (Grasshoppers)
- North-West – Chair Andrew Smart (Harrow), Secretary Mark Foster (OMTs)
- North – Chair Jon Boyle (Hampstead), Secretary Debbie Stockman-Rose (O Grammarians)
- Simon Hardcastle, the Groups’ Secretary, will be conducting the election for the Group Chair for the 2023/24 season in the next couple of weeks and certainly in good time for the AGM.
However, it would be wrong for me to paint too rosy a picture and so I would have to acknowledge that, as with playing numbers, attendances at Group meetings generally have not reached the levels that we were seeing before the pandemic. Although we have seen some levelling off, I cannot pretend that on occasion the numbers have been disappointing.
I can therefore report that Tim, Eddie and myself have now had a provisional meeting to review the groups and how we can improve the offering to our clubs and we plan further meetings across the Summer. There is no doubt at all that they remain absolutely central to how the County performs and will continue to function and that will not change. What we do need to do with the advent of the monthly newsletter plus our ability to get out and communicate with our clubs at short notice via All-Clubs meetings (which generally have proved very successful) is to make sure that they remain fit for purpose, receive all the support they require to function and develop and ensure that they remain relevant to our clubs.
Although much of the rugby landscape was dominated by the fall-out from the Tackle Height debacle, I would like to reiterate something I wrote in one of the newsletters:
“We were asked to identify forty-five people from Middlesex to represent our clubs and players at the Tackle Height “Consultation” forums. Following on from a well-attended All-Clubs meeting on Monday 20th February, unsurprisingly perhaps we were up to our full complement of volunteers by Thursday evening before the Friday midday deadline on the 24th February. These numbers however turned into over 60 by the following morning. In the end, I had to narrow it down but I think we got some really excellent representation across the whole of our game in Middlesex, from 27 of our clubs. I was really impressed with the quality of those people across our clubs who put themselves forward and hopefully many who perhaps who have not featured before outside their clubs, will be motivated to remain involved and looking to take on other responsibilities or roles across Middlesex”.
Clearly, there are outstanding people across all our clubs who, given the opportunity to engage in something that they had a real passion about, were keen to put themselves forward. We need to translate those people through the groups into our leaders of the future. It will be a waste if their talents and energies are lost to the wider game. That will be one of the challenges for the Group Officers for next season.
Finally, I must thank my committee for all their hard work over what has been a long and demanding season for us all. We continue to strive to do the best we can for our clubs and we will never lose sight of that fact that we can always do better.
Chair of Representative Playing – Jok Dunbar
The challenges of representative rugby have been different this year to previous ones but we have managed to produce some good results with some excellent coaching and greater participation than ever from Middlesex clubs. We had around 400 players nominated for the six sections that ran this year with players coming from clubs that have not been represented recently from 14 year olds to our eldest player who I believe was 40 years old. We held over a hundred and fifty training sessions and played eighteen games – we won nine, lost eight and drew one. In total we had c.200 individuals pull on the blue and white banded shirt with pride.
Girls U16 England Rugby Developing Player Programme (ERDPP): We had a new RFU initiative to fulfil with the Girls U16 England Rugby Developing Player Programme (ERDPP) working within a twenty-week calendar.
Hari McCormack drew up the Middlesex framework and we recruited a diverse group of coaches from previous seasons’ County programmes, all of which had worked with girls rugby. Once the squad of c.40 girls had been selected, the goal was to move the training around the county. Sadly poor weather early in the season meant that use of grass pitches became tricky and Grasshoppers became the default venue for the majority of the season. We completed one internal game and an exciting series of games versus Buckinghamshire and then a mini festival against Surrey and Berkshire. The purpose of the ERDPP is not about winning County games but rather the development of individual players in their skills and team-work. It was wonderful to see how the girls got to know each other, build on their own abilities and grow as individuals. We have put forward a number of the older cohort to the Centre of Excellence. Those that don’t make it will hopefully still be available for the Girls U18 programme next season.
U18 Girls: There was some miscommunication at the start of the season which meant we had difficulty in arranging fixtures for this cohort. Many of the girls had been with us last year but we definitely had a much smaller pool to select the squad from. Having said that, we believe we had quality over quantity and the squad was strong. The freeze in late December meant we had to postpone our game against Essex. We did manage to play Surrey in January and then the postponed game against Essex in March. Sadly, the game against Bucks proved too difficult for both counties and was called off.
Many of the squad will be available for next year and with the U16’s from this season coming through we have a strong core group to start next season. Thank you to Chris Mason for leading this age group this year.
U17 Boys: There was no longer an U15’s or U16’s Boys programme as the London Irish Academy offered a single pathway for players development and game time. In addition, the RFU guidelines have been relaxed on our available time with this age group. It has given us the chance to really expand the competitive playing programme into a development one as well that will lead from U17 through U18, U20’s and hopefully into the senior County game.
Many of these lads have either been released from academy or haven’t taken part in it. This is an exciting prospect for us to take the boys on this journey and try and provide high level playing opportunities for them, not just at County but beyond. We have a number of coaches that overlap between the age groups now so there are familiar faces through the sections. The 17’s is now very much about getting to know the boys and build on their skills but also helping to guide them through other aspects of injury prevention, nutrition and playing opportunities.
With over 40 clubs and schools represented, we believe we have selected some of the best players that sit on the edge of academy selection but still have a huge potential and are willing to make the effort to do so. Thank you to Jerry Hedigan for his lead with the U17’s this year.
U18 Boys: This cohort have been unbeaten in their County games through U17 and U18 but more importantly, have grown as a squad in confidence and cohesion. Seven of the group made it through to the London & South East (L&SE) playing squad. As in previous years, this has proven to be a great opportunity for the boys to be seen by universities and high level clubs so that they can continue their playing journeys. Mark Gardiner was our lead coach and has proven a stalwart for many of the players since U15 rugby began.
U20 Mens: Having not had this section for two years, it was hard to restart it, but with a promising sign up of around forty participants we ended with a core squad of c. 30 players.
Andy Cunningham had done a great job in promoting the U20’s to Universities and colleges. As word spread of the offering we gained a few extra players and sadly lost a few as end of year exams and club commitments came into play. We managed to get a team together to play Essex at Grasshoppers. Essex proved too strong in defence and eventually won convincingly.
We played Hertfordshire in our second game and this proved a far more competitive game. The encouraging takeaway was that six of our squad were identified by the L&SE assessors and taken through to trial, two of which were finally selected for the L&SE U20’s team. Thank you to Sam Challenor for ensuring this team trained and played so well.
Senior Womens: Laurisa (Gert) Robson sadly left the Middlesex County coaching squad last year and Niall McSweeney had to commit to his full time job. Thankfully, Gerry Dolan agreed to take on the role as lead coach with Dan Nevison stepping in when he could to help manage the squad. Thank you to the strong culture that Gert and Niall had developed, the nominations were plentiful this year at over 80 names given. Sadly, we lost a number of core players from last year’s squad due to playing at higher level clubs but we did have a quality response for the sign up and finished with a squad of 35 players. The nature of the season does mean as we got to game time we lost a number through injury or commitments to club games. This meant we only had a squad of 18 for our first game against Devon. They proved strong in the first half but we had a better second half as our fitness and sheer grit came through. Our second game, held at Twyford Avenue against Dorset and Wilts, was well attended by supporters but again unfortunately we lost the game. The majority of the squad was younger than previous years and County rugby proved a big step up from their previous experiences. However, there were a great deal of positives and the team definitely has huge potential for next year. We had 27 various clubs and universities represented in the squad and shows we’re hopefully becoming a team to aspire to.
Senior Mens: Budgeting last year give us limits on what we could spend and consequently, we did not run a Senior mens team this year. We will look forward to rebooting the Senior Mens next season with new energy and a slightly different offering to the participants.
I’ve mentioned the leads for each group but I also want to mention the many other individuals we’ve had volunteer their time this year that have provided a brilliant training and playing environment. Nick Allso, Jack Bairstow, Andrew Barrington, Morgan Beale, Ollie Brown, Chris Bryant, Helene Caux, Sam Challenor, Bryony Cleall, Fiona Cooper, Andrew Cunningham, Gerald Dolan, Ross Doneghan, Jen Edwards, Peter Forsdick, Mark Gardiner, Sam Gratton, Chris Grilli, Jerry Hedigan, Chris Hitchcock, Neil Horchover, Mark Lynch, Chris Mason, Daniel Nevison, Ellie Pritchard, Jordan Pullinger, Louise Simons, Charlotte Soper, Charlie Swerling, Ben Wassell and not least my Deputy Chair, Hari McCormack and my sounding board and counsel, Director of Youth for Middlesex, Richard Wilmot. Thanks as ever to Nicky Fielder for her constant checks and nudges when required. Thank you to the staff at Finchley RFC, Wasps FC and Grasshoppers RFC for their support and use of their grounds and facilities throughout the season. And finally, a huge thank you to all the parents, friends, coaches and Middlesex clubs for their players and ongoing support for representative rugby at County level.
Report on Middlesex Coach, Referee, & Mentoring Development – Bob Lawless
The purpose of the Middlesex Coaching Development Programme is to develop coaches at all levels of the game, in both our member clubs and schools. This is achieved by a close working relationship with the RFU Coach Development manager and our Regional Academy Partners.
This end of season report looks at how the coach development programme achieves these objectives and the impact of the programme, which is displayed in four key areas:
- RFU Targeted funding
- Courses run by Middlesex
- Courses run by the RFU
- Courses run by the Regional Academy
- RFU Targeted Funding: RFU targeted funding was approved to run a course dedicated to all 17 Middlesex coaches to develop the senior male game. Each coach worked to a development plan which covered the following syllabus:
- Gaining an understand of the coaching pathway
- Developing a coaching philosophy
- Structuring a coaching session.
- Attending where possible all structured Coach education sessions.
- Understanding activate and strength and conditioning
- Gaining an understanding of Regulation 9, 15 & 21, especially young players transitioning into the senior game
- Attending the RFU, courses in preparation for attending the England Rugby Coaching Award (ERCA)
- Embracing the support of an RFU qualified mentor, to support each candidate through an agreed Personal Development Plan while working towards an RFU coaching qualification
- Attending a coaching assessment at a DPP session and to receive appraisal to help with their final coaching preparation
- Middlesex Coaching: Throughout the season, Middlesex have run 10 coach education sessions targeted at all levels of Middlesex coaches, with 243 coaches attending. This course education programme is a mixture of online events and outdoor skill development sessions. Middlesex supports youth coaches with a weekly coaching newsletter which is circulated to 450 coaches each Friday throughout the year.
- RFU Courses: The RFU have run the following coaching courses in Middlesex. In total 745 Middlesex Coaches have attended these coaching awards:
England Rugby Coaching Award,
England Rugby Mentoring Award
Kids first contact rugby
Kids first Tag Rugby
Play it safe
Principles of scrummaging
Principles of lineout
Teachers Introduction to contact ruby
Emergency First Aid
- Regional Academy Coach Development: Middlesex regional academy partners have run a number of skill development sessions where youth sections of Middlesex clubs are invited to attend as a group.
The Academy ACDO (academy coach development officer) puts on monthly on-line Coaching Webinars covering:
- Understanding feedback
- Attendance at open Coaches sessions
- Learning styles and coaching behaviours
- Session design
- Coaching impact
- Understanding skill development
The senior Academy coaches also ran a Middlesex senior coaches education evening looking at what’s trending in back play in the premiership. A total of 220 Middlesex coaches attended these sessions.
Referee Development: The purpose of the Middlesex Refereeing Development Programme is to develop all those interested in improving their knowledge of the laws of the game and to referee Age-grade club games in their local community clubs and where possible to cover Senior games where confidence allows. This is achieved by The London Society of Referees running a two-evenings Take up the Whistle Course. The RFU runs the England Rugby Referee Award (ERRA) for those with an ambition to referee at a higher level.
To date this season, our Middlesex clubs have run 7 Senior Take up the Whistle courses and 2 Young Match official’s courses at the following clubs:
- Wasps, Ealing x 2
- Harrow, Hammersmith & Fulham, Grasshoppers, x2
- Grammarians & Twickenham, x1
The total number of attendees at these Take up The Whistle Courses was 125. In addition, the RFU have run 2 England Rugby Referees Award (ERRA) with 45 participating. In total there have been 170 referees upskilled in Middlesex.
Rugby Development – Lou Latter
It was great to see the 2022-2023 season return us with a semblance of normality, although still not without challenges. The Rugby Development committee continues to work for and with our clubs to provide support and solutions to the challenges that are being faced.
Age-grade rugby continues to give our younger players playing opportunities. We maintain 50% of our clubs hosting mini rugby and/or age grade boys and girls teams. The culmination of age-grade rugby is with our 5 minis festivals held in March and the Girls St George’s Day held in April in a new partnership with Surrey CB and London Irish.
With the continued preference to host meetings online, it gives us more opportunity to host meetings with individual or multiple clubs on different topics. These then feed into the All Groups meetings that as a Management Board we organise to ensure we are talking to and hearing from clubs.
It was great to achieve 100% on the Club Facilities Audit at the start of the season. This is an important exercise so we as a County can understand the wants and needs of clubs to enhance their facilities. With the RWC2025 Impact Funding starting to ramp up, we will ensure we are working with clubs to maximise the benefit of funding from a home World Cup.
As ever, the Middlesex Honda Volunteer of the Year Awards are a big focus for the Rugby Development committee. This year, we received 109 nominations covering 40 clubs and over 200 volunteers across the 3 categories. We’ll be welcoming all the nominees and invited club representatives to Twickenham on 7th July to celebrate their hard work and dedication.
Director of Communications & Innovation – Waheed Aslam
Three years ago, we set out wanting to create better engagement between the clubs, its members, the RFU and the County. This would allow us to better share relevant information across all our stakeholders and live up to our mantra of “bringing people together to enjoy rugby”.
The first stage was to improve the brand architecture and reassert our brand values, which allowed us to provide consistency to our brand assets and make them more digital friendly. A major part of that project was also to ensure making the website fit for purpose, digital-friendly and up-to-date for which I would like to thank Simon Hardcastle for his ongoing support.
Stage Two of the project was to create relevant communication channels which would allow a two-way dialogue. This has four major components. The first two are broad reach, the second two are more targeted:
- The website– used very much as an information only site, site content will not change much but we will update it with new information and relevant articles.
- The newsletter– the monthly newsletter has been a great success allowing county executives to communicate relevant news and updates to the wider audience.
- Social media– Developing our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels has allowed us to more regularly communicate to audiences who otherwise the county may not get a chance to speak to (dare I say a younger and more diverse demographic!). Whilst we have always had a core following on Facebook and Twitter, engagement in each of these channels has increased with more likes, comments and shares. Instagram has been our fastest growing social channel with great two-way dialogue and a 1000% increase in engagement, with many people now tagging the county which ensures greater reach for their own posts.
- WhatsApp groups– We now have 19 groups set up including various age grade, women’s and girls, safeguarding and referees as well as executive groups including RFU comms. We have been able to share information and create more of a response via this channel than any of the others. For example, information on training, meetings, recognition and awards etc. Other counties and the RFU are now tapping into this resource to get their messages across.
Stage 3 was all about creating a reciprocal dialogue between our stakeholders.
The Communication & Branding policy ensures that we have a Framework to work to and a level of governance on how we manage all of the above which was developed in line with all other Middlesex Rugby policies.
What next? As the world and our stakeholders become more mobile (at least through technology if not physically!), we will be looking to build on what we have created over the last three years to develop more digital friendly content.
To support the county’s efforts we will be looking to better commercialise our assets through sponsorship.
It would be remiss of me, as Secretary, not to mention three other very important functions, namely safeguarding, discipline and the Assistant Secretaries role. Neil Horchover, County Safeguarding Manager, continues to do an outstanding job in developing policies and guidance in this complex area. Safeguarding is such a critical part of the role played by the County and his leadership has ensured that all safeguarding matters have been dealt with sensitively and calmly.
The Disciplinary Committee continues to ensure that a proportionate and appropriate approach is taken to all cases which it is required to deal with. Andy Brookes (Chairman) and John Orr (Secretary), together with other colleagues, continue to discharge this important responsibility, despite the challenges of finding suitable venues in which to conduct its business.
Simon Hardcastle plays an invaluable role in the administration of the County and provides me with a very welcome sounding board. Thank you all.
In terms of volunteers, we are always looking for more and, it goes without saying, if you are reading this and you think you might like to become a County volunteer, please do not hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the County Office. We will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Yours in rugby,
Dr Tim Miller