This is the report I submitted for the Eastern Counties Annual Report delivered at its AGM on 6 June 2014
The Rugby Football Union has had a good year on and off the field and with the Rugby World Cup less than 500 days away England Rugby is looking in good shape to stage one of the best ever tournaments and to be one of the major contenders to win it.
Stuart Lancaster’s squad improved with every game during the season and although they couldn’t repeat the thrilling win of 2012 over the All Blacks and they were denied a Six Nations Grand Slam by the luck of the bounce in Paris, there is no doubt that there is more to come. There is strength in depth in nearly every position and the pride the players have in representing their country is part of an ethos than connects with the grass roots game.
Bill Beaumont has grown into the role of Chairman during his second year and it was his stature as a highly respected former player, along with the negotiating acumen of Chief Executive Ian Ritchie, that secured the agreement of all parties to allow a European Cup competition to go ahead next season when for a while it looked like there would be none.
At Twickenham I continue to sit on the Club Development sub-committee where I take a lead on Volunteering. This season has seen an increase in the number of opportunities available to thank and reward volunteers with match tickets, invitations to lunch at Twickenham or to watch the England squad train at St George’s or Pennyhill Park, etc. But the most important part for me is the recruitment of new volunteers and their development.
Next year’s Rugby World Cup will provide us with a once in a generation opportunity to grow the game in our communities in terms of players, coaches referees and volunteers but the work to recruit them starts now. I have been helping England Rugby 2015 with their Volunteer Recruitment strategy and there have been 18000 applicants for 6000 volunteer roles at the World Cup, with over 13000 applications coming from outside the game. Our job is to direct these people towards their local rugby clubs who need to welcome them and show them how rewarding it is to be a volunteer involved in rugby.
In all I have spent over 50 days on RFU business this season and I must thank my employers for allowing me to take the time off. However, my passion remains grass-roots rugby and I try to visit an Eastern Counties club to watch a game every spare Saturday during the season as well as taking in some Sunday and weekday evening games. In all, I have managed 29 visits to 23 clubs including three that I hadn’t been to before; Watton, Cottenham Renegades and Norwich Medics. I am pretty sure that I have now visited every single Eastern Counties club since I became a Council Member and I know that I have been to many of them more than a few times.
I have continued to communicate as much as I can with clubs with regular Council Member Briefings as well as through Twitter, Facebook and my blog at https://asarek.wordpress.com I have also organised meetings with clubs to discuss the RFU’s Adult Competitions Review, the replacement for RugbyFirst, and planning for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
It seems that the close season gets shorter and shorter every year but I hope you manage to get a break from rugby until the start of the 2014/15 season when I look forward to visiting your club.