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Chairman’s Report – AGM July 2021

Thank you all for coming along tonight and taking part in the club AGM. 

It’s been a trying time for everyone in the past 18 months and to have the prospect of matches, including full contact and scrums in sight again is heartening. However, despite pre-season being underway, we must still proceed with caution, follow the club COVID guidance, and prepare for further changes. There’s still a long road ahead. 

Whilst we’ve not been able to play matches, an awful lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to consider, and then reconsider, the regularly changing government guidance, alongside the RFU instructions that have followed. We’ve obtained grants to provide sanitizer, cleaning products and additional bibs, plus some additional signage for the Sharks. Whenever possible, we have provided training sessions at the club, including coach led. A special thanks to all our coaches, from age grade to seniors, for all the time and effort they put in to make this happen.

Numbers at training have been great and a testament to the hard work the coaches do, with lots of new, existing or returning players taking part. Adult male registration has been particularly strong with 18 players registered since the last lockdown ended. The Mens 2nds new league appears to be very competitive and we’ll need to step up to the plate. If numbers allow, we will look to find 3rdXV games where we can, including in conjunction with other clubs if need be. 

The Ladies XV have also recruited well, although lost a few during the past 18 months. A few more players will hopefully provide some additional depth to the squad. They are also likely to be our most travelled of  (again) and sadly no funding available from the RFU for travel costs. 

The Sharks buying their first set of proper match kit for their first ‘proper’ games this season is a massive highlight and I’m looking forward to watching them (please come along and support if you can!). Al the Sharks age groups have fixtures lined up already, including new teams. 

Overall, we want to ensure that everyone plays and trains as regularly as they want to (and the more the merrier!)

We’ve updated the terms of reference for club committee roles, which we’ve shared with you all. With the help of Jim H we’ve produced a new club sponsorship package which is nearly ready to go. We’ve also looked at where we should be aiming at as a club and what our vision should be to move us forward, rather than just maintain where we are. There’s a complete list of club award winners which is now available on the website, and all the awards have been updated and handed out. 

I’d especially like to mention Lee Janes for all the fantastic work he’s done on the website to release a new version which he’s done whilst also leading the Sharks. Alongside all the new detail, he’s done some sterling work in the background to make the site more appealing to the likes of Google so that it appears higher up search lists. Please go and have a look, as the more visitors it gets the better. There’s also a link to the club stash shop (supplied by Halbro, part of Raging Bull). There’s more to add to the site, but its important to note that Lee can only add the content he’s been given, so if there’s something missing, its most likely that he doesn’t have it. The more news we can add, including match reports the better.

During lockdown we’ve tried to review lots of our procedures. As many of you will have seen, this has included how we manage club membership, by moving the process onto the RFU GMS system. This will allow us to keep better records, reduce the amount of work our volunteers have to do and ensure that all those that play regularly are members. We can also use this system to offer you an option to use monthly installments (thanks to Jim H and Thumper for recommending it), which some of you have taken up.

We will also use the system to keep you up to date with important club business and news. 

Further, the RFU is moving to a system where adult players, rather than clubs manage their playing registration, which has been happening with youth rugby for a few seasons. This is why we’ve been asking you to ensure you can log into GMS successfully. You’ll also see details such as match appearances and points scored, which will be generated from the Electronic Match Cards.

I can’t stress enough how important club membership is, so please get yours sorted soon. Don’t forget that the early bird discounts on adult memberships end on 31 July. As we’ve said previously, we are only charging players a £1 if they paid membership last season, this is mostly so that we can ensure that they are properly registered on GMS.

As of Sunday, 34 adult players have sorted their membership so far, so thank you for doing so, but we have 89 registered adult players. At some point soon we will have to tell players not to attend training sessions if they continue to not sort this out. Sharks membership details will follow shortly as it will need to link with the annual registration cycle

As part of this process, I want to bring Vice Presidents, occasional players and other supporters into the same system, so expect further communications from Tony and Ash shortly. We want to engage more with our VPs (which we’ll need updated email addresses for) and want more of them to engage more regularly with the club by attending games. 

A special mention to the work of Will Markey in getting social events underway and for helping boost the membership of the 59Club, where his efforts have made a massive difference over the past few months, with only 8 numbers now remaining (If he could stop Ollie winning all the better). You’ll hear from Rhod on how important the 59Club is to us income wise, and we want to put that to good use in trying to improve the social element of the club as much as possible.

Looking forward, we want to strive to be the best club we can be, and improve our most important role, playing rugby.

There are a number of projects that as a club I’d like us to look into, including auto recording of games (as we have been unable to recruit volunteer effort to do so), electronic scoreboard and improving our offer to parents and spectators, especially on Sundays with teas and coffees etc (CACSSA permitting). We already had some money from NatWest that we had originally intended to use to improve the Audiovisual kit in the bar for big games, so we will review that shortly. 

Whilst we’ve been able to use grants to help with equipment improvements over the past few years, we really need to improve our offer to Sponsors and Partners to help achieve our aim. Our sponsors have been fantastic to us over the years and we want to ensure that they continue to see value in supporting our club. The website and sponsorship package are part of that, but the most important element is someone(s) dedicated to taking Sponsorship and Partnerships forward, which was the reason for the new role we have created and advertised recently. 

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has put their time in to help run the club in the past two years. Often their work goes unnoticed but it’s vital to us. I’d especially like to mention Peter Shortell, who stood down as Club Secretary after many years service. Peter’s commitment to the club has been extraordinary and I can’t do it justice here, but thank you. Whilst standing down from this role (and thank you to Nat for stepping forward to take on the role) he’s too much of a clubman and is still representing us at the Cheltenham Combination. You can’t keep a good clubman down it seems.