This is the first of three annual reports I wrote for the Eastern Counties Rugby 2010/11 Annual Report. The others will be published over the next few days.
ANNUAL REPORT 2010/11
The Community Rugby Committee met four times during the season to plan and review progress towards our objectives in the Eastern Counties Action Plan. Most of these were met and are reported on below. Over the season nearly all clubs in Eastern Counties were visited by one of the team and advice on a wide range of subjects was given. We know that clubs appreciate the visits and it helps us and them to have a point of contact when issues arise.
For the record, the Community Rugby Committee comprises of Andrew Sarek, Roger Pierson, John Winders, John Taylor, John Langford, Greg Underwood and Lee Adamson.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our game and their recruitment, retention and recognition is vital if clubs are to flourish. This was Greg Underwood’s second season as CB Volunteer Coordinator and his report is at the end of this one. Greg and his team have significantly raised the profile of the volunteer, particularly in the area of recognition and reward, and the President’s XV award is well deserved.
As part of our commitment to develop clubs and their volunteers we held meetings and workshops covering Catastrophic Injury to Players, Ground Maintenance, Funding & Facilities, CASC and Incorporation, and Volunteering.
We have been recommending that all clubs become incorporated to avoid the risk of members being sued in the event of an uninsured accident and we now have nearly half registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee or an Industrial Provident Society with more going through the incorporation process. We have also been encouraging eligible clubs to reap the financial benefits of becoming a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) and so far 20 have done so.
Three more clubs have been awarded the Mini & Youth Seal of Approval and four have now got the Whole Club Seal of Approval. My thanks go to our RDOs and CRCs for their hard work and perseverance in helping the clubs get their accreditations.
An important part of our role is to identify clubs that are struggling on or off the field and to offer whatever help and advice we can to keep them playing rugby. We have been busier this season than in previous years but in most cases the clubs in question have turned the corner and are facing a brighter future.
Funding & Facilities
Over the past year clubs in Eastern Counties applied for and received approval for RFU grants and loans totalling over £200,000 for projects to improve facilities. This will make the total invested by the RFU in ECRU clubs almost £1.8m in the past 6 years, supporting projects worth over £4m.
The biggest beneficiary this season was Diss RFC who received a £90k grant and £60k interest-free loan towards the cost of a £600k changing room extension and general refurbishment. Brightlingsea received a grant of £30k towards a new £500k pavilion mainly funded by the Football Foundation. Both of these projects should be finished early in the 2011/12 season.
Andy Spetch from Bury St Edmunds has suggested that an ECRU Groundsmans’ Association is set up to share ideas and to see how clubs can cooperate and benefit through bulk purchase and sharing equipment. We are working with Andy to get something going during the summer.
Beach Tag Rugby events were held at Clacton-on-sea, Great Yarmouth and Southwold, proving to be as popular as ever with over 1200 participants in total. They will continue in 2011.
This midweek Vets competition took a rest in 2010/11 but there are plans to reintroduce it as a league competition for 2011/12 in Suffolk with smaller events to be held in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.
Cambridge RFC hosted the third Eastern Counties 10s tournament but only seven clubs took part calling into question the value of arranging the tournament in future years. However a charity 10s has been proposed for 13 August at Stowmarket RFC so we will promote this event and see how well it is supported by clubs.
This form of the game is likely to grow in popularity as we get closer towards its inclusion as an Olympic sport in 2016. As part of a strategy to grow 7s in Eastern Counties the first ECRU Colts 7s tournament was held at West Norfolk RFC with selectors on hand to look at player for the ECRU U19 7s squad. This squad took part in the National U19 7s competition and came away with the plate. As the game grows locally more tournaments at youth and adult levels are planned.
This form of the game is being promoted by the RFU this summer as a way to get more people involved in Rugby. 19 clubs around Eastern Counties are already holding touch rugby evenings and where there is interest we are encouraging local leagues with teams from local businesses, pubs and clubs playing on weekday evenings.
This is my last season as Chair of the ECRU Community Rugby Committee. Since 2004 we have seen the support we offer to clubs grow from the occasional phone call or letter to a programme of club visits undertaken by a team of knowledgeable volunteers able to give advice to club members. We have instigated workshops about Player and Volunteer Recruitment & Retention, Incorporation, CASC, Seal of Approval, Insurance, Health & Safety, Groundsmanship, Facility Management, RugbyFirst, Fundraising and Club Finance, all of which have been well received by clubs.
The Funding & Facilities programme has seen match floodlights spring up in all three counties and major clubhouse building and extensions that otherwise could never have happened. Additionally we have funded many smaller projects that have allowed clubs to attract and retain players by making the playing and training experience better, such as portable lights, kitchen refurbishments, shower upgrades, pitch improvements, boiler and heating renewals, etc.
Leisure Rugby has seen variants of our 15-a-side Saturday game flourish with midweek 20 minute each way matches, Tens, Sevens, the hugely popular Beach Rugby events and now Summer Touch Rugby.
Visits to clubs are now well established and welcomed as an opportunity to discuss specific issues and to offer advice. But most satisfying has been the help, advice and support we have been able to give to four new clubs that have started during my time as Chair: Cambourne Exiles, Wattisham Warriors, Mildenhall, and Thorpeness.
Clubs are now better equipped on and off the field to provide players, coaches, referees and supporters with a good quality rugby experience, and that is what will bring more people and players into the game and keep them in the game. I wish the incoming chair John Winders every success in continuing to grow the game in Eastern Counties
Andrew Sarek – Chair, Community Rugby Committee