As the season fast approaches I thought I might set out my state of the nation - club nation not country nation – far too complex the latter.
I hope that the summer is going well for you, but for me I am definitely getting match day withdrawal symptoms and the World Cup preparations are adding to it .
1st XV - Those that have Twitter or look at our website will be aware of the squads new arrivals. Matt has done a great job in persuading some top-level players to come to Kingsey Road. They come here because now a lot of their pals are here, they come because they like the Chinnor story of a club punching well above their weight, they like our ambition and our top notch coaching set up, they like our balanced approach to semi-pro sport and hard work and enjoyment. Many are also attracted by the help we give them in forming the start of their careers in the world after a fully pro environment. In any event they are here and we are blessed with so many ex Championship and Premiership players and the good news is they are a nice bunch of chaps, so I would urge you to go and say hello. And we have many of last year’s squad still with us, so all in all looking good.
Summer training has gone well with one or two knocks more than we would have liked, but overall in good shape with a level of commitment and skill that I have hitherto not seen at The Villagers. We wait to see how that translates on to the park, but the signs are good. This season promises to be even more enthralling than last season and the plan is for us to be in the mix throughout as opposed to just the first half like last season. We will need to be at the top of our game as nearly 50 per cent of the sides have gone nuclear in their preparations with the rumours of perhaps two or three going up this year. Whether we achieve that or not there will be rugby to top what we witnessed last season and that was special, so I urge you to get what must be the best value deal since the government floated Royal Mail - The Season Ticket.
The elephant in the room is of course do we want to go up and can we afford it? My view - as ever - is simplistic. This season the RFU will give us the square root of nothing as a contribution to our costs as they have made further cuts to the community game following their massive mismanagement of their affairs - they cannot cut back on the funding to level 1 and 2 as that is a legal agreement they can’t break - even if they wanted to. The Championship sides receive some 550k of funding a season, so providing we maintain a semi-pro model that Richmond did it would greatly increase our sustainability even after we strengthened. We continue to increase our commercial revenue, but without the continuing support of some major sponsors it would be many years before we could do without them. There was a prospect that Richmond might not be relegated as Yorkshire Carnegie appointed receivers, but the RFU have confirmed that YC will be in the Championship which is good news for our Christmas home fixture and we look forward to playing them again after some time.
Matt Williams remains our DoR and also retained are Dan George - head coach - and Ricky Khan – backs coach. Carl Kirwan is player/defence coach and we are well aware that our D must move on from last year.
Club Management - John Maitland resigned as treasurer and we thank him for his efforts . At the AGM, Mike Hughes was elected treasurer and, after a long search, I am pleased to announce that the club also elected Amanda Pearce Higgins and Stewart Yates as non-exec directors. Amanda is a former partner of PWC and is on the board of a Government-backed sports council for Oxfordshire which promotes sport. A keen hockey player, Amanda is very much wanting to help Chinnor RFC take the next steps forward. Stewart is a businessman who runs a company in the IT and telephony world and is one of Chinnor’s major sponsors for the last couple of years. A former rugby player -never mind it was for Aylesbury - Stewart is already helping us focus on some key objectives. We welcome them both.
We are narrowing down on a potential new general manager and hope to appoint shortly. In the meantime, Alan Marples and myself are covering the role - email@example.com.
Facilities - We are hoping to have top speed broadband and a new ticket entry system for match days and online booking for all events, thanks to Stewart and our IT team of Sean, Angus and Mike. Our marquee which was very much a success last year will be given a spring clean and a levelled floor shortly and we are aiming on getting enhanced entertainment in place for match day, so sport can be watched. Some of you will have seen the temporary stand to keep us covered behind the goals, thanks to Connect and Rectory. Alex and John are working on grant monies for the new permanent stand in front of the clubhouse and fingers crossed it is going in the right direction. We have also targeted a borehole to substantially reduce our cost of water as this is becoming more important. We would extend the irrigation system to P2 and P3 at the same time. We spent many £000’s on sanding, over seeding and fertiliser for all 3 pitches in the close season but without water P2 and P3 will not look as good as P1 does. Hopefully the recent rain will help. Thanks to Ben Phillips for going above the call of duty in the seasonal maintenance. After many years Steve Halson retired from day to day management of the pitches and our thanks to him for that. Brian has stepped in and is working tirelessly to keep them moving forward. The club gym was renovated and new equipment installed by Powerhouse and we now have an excellent facility. There remains a medium/long term plan to improve the offering both in terms of clubhouse, changing rooms, pitches and training areas and Alex Bond and John Ashfield continue with trying to attract grants for these projects.
Commercial – An ever present need to increase this drives our efforts and we made substantial increases in key areas last year, but with more to do. Match days we need to increase attendances for both the game and pre-match lunch. The marquee allows us to substantially increase numbers and whilst we were at our maximum three times last season the aim is to do it at every home game. We increased substantially our hirings for private events as people start to hear of the great location, facility and value we offer. There are offerings for all, so do come along and try it. We have appointed a new professional media manager who will be announced shortly, but you will see a dramatic improvement in our online presence and whilst a major objective is to inform it is also to attract. The kit launch was by his fair hand, so watch this space - well Twitter and Facebook space.
Community initiative - We have proven the model on this and already for next year we have some 140 hours a week booked in for our coaches to teach in schools. This has a 4 point benefit: 1 - Improves our community relations. 2 - May well act as a reason for more people to come to match days. 3 - It enables us to offer jobs to prospective players. 4 - It will in due course provide a surplus that we can invest in the club.
We have enhanced our sponsorship offering that makes it clearer and easier to get involved as a sponsor and with the appointment of Camillo as a sponsorship manager we are increasing our outreach. My thanks to Mike Hughes and Jerry Austin-Smith for their continuing efforts and of course to our existing and new sponsors. Part of Camillo’s brief is to make our sponsors feel more part of the club and to suitably thank them.
Amateur Senior Rugby - The Falcons as most second teams these days continue to face challenges. They remain in Zoo League 1 and I am pleased to say that Liam Gilbert and Frank Jones have returned to help Matty Mountford move them on alongside Andy Milburn as team manager. A combined 2nds/Wildboys lost in the final of the County Cup to Banbury. We need to support these guys. The 3rds, aka the Wildboys, march effervescently on and had another cracking season. It was good to see the 4ths resurrected and hopefully they will gather more steam. The Vets made a good showing in the Cup, but they could probably do with a few more recruits please.
Minis, Junior and Youth Rugby - As always a well-run section of the club that continues to strive for excellence. Numbers are being maintained I believe and my thanks to Nick, Richard and Chris with all of their help from coaches and administrators for doing such a fine Job. Alex Bond has stepped up to Colts and has successfully bent Matt’s ear for some 1st teamers to act as coaches.
Volunteers – Always a key part of the club and always a worry that as members see more staff appointed that they tend to step back. As we found with the last GM he tended to get given jobs that were always carried out by members none of which were too burdensome on their own, but when combined meant that he was not able to spend any real time on revenue creation. John and I have identified some key roles that ideally could be occupied by volunteers and John is seeking out candidates - if any take your fancy do please make contact with him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admin head of community rugby*
Match day preparations for the games
Match day looking after our guest VIP’s*
Match day tannoy announcers
Shop manning – see below
*someone has expressed and interest but do please come forward
Shop – Nick Stainton, Helen Richardson and Yvette Nix have kindly agreed to take on the Sunday manning and stocking on with Francesca looking after the Saturdays, but do please volunteer to help out on the odd shifts.
And finally - I hear you say – it would be great to see our travelling supporters out in force as they were at the beginning of last season. This weekend we are at Rams for their XV-a-side Festival, followed by London Scottish on the 24th and Camarthen Quins at home the following Saturday. Do please start booking lunches and, oh yes, if you could renew your membership as soon as you can please as we need the money. I look forward to standing on the touchline with you or even sitting in our new temporary stand.