This is a long one and I apologise for that but looking at the fact that the surveys show 1 in 3 of the club’s membership wants more committee communication but then only 12% were able to make the AGM, I need to try something different & comprehensive. This is going out as an email, on Facebook, on social media and will be posted on the website.
Your 2023 committee has been elected and is President – David Dunn, Chair – Will Bathurst, Secretary – Rob Ireland, Youth Section Manager – Lucy Ireland, Club Safeguarding Officers – Claire Kilby & Will Bathurst, Club Captain & Sundays – Jody Lawrence, 1st XI Captain & Midweek – James Newman, 2nd XI Captain – Jake Harris, Social Secretary - Philippa Dunn, Fundraising – Liam James, Sponsorship – James Mcloughlin.
We enter the 2023 season without a Treasurer, 3rd XI Captain & Ladies Captain.
For me, it’s a pretty daunting job to step into DWD’s shoes as Chairman even though I’ve been at Poulton in all sorts of roles since 2005, barring a four year break in Singapore. I played out of our old Pavilion and was Captain when the new one was built and opened. A huge amount has changed under David’s leadership. There’s no way to record all this. He’s done more than he ever should have and it’s important that you know as I replace him, I will pile everything I have into the club for the next 12 months.
Mark Leadbeater has stepped down from the 3rd XI Captaincy to hopefully focus on opening the batting for the 2nd XI in the county league, Philippa Dunn who drove our beer festival and is the engine room in the Ladies is stepping back to handle Social Secretary & Rosemarie Chapman has not continued her term as President after a decade in the position which followed her late husband Geoff. We need to mark these contributions properly and the new committee will handle this along with proper memorials for SGW and Wayne and relaunching our Life Members.
I’ve seen the phenomenal growth in the club and what’s possible when our membership buys in to support that. Looking back now, two main things have changed beyond recognition. Firstly the administrative burden placed on us by a completely out of touch ECB (we are very fortunate with the Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation) and secondly, the call on member’s time from far more hectic lives and other sports/interests. The approach to running the club has to be that of a small business with all the associated risks, liabilities & financial pressures but yet still maintaining the feel of a fun, family oriented sports club at a membership cost that remains accessible. It’s tough balance.
INCREASING CLUB PARTICIPATION
We are not alone in such problems, clubs all over the county are struggling to raise sides and keep their heads above water. In the County League, several clubs are leaving due to this and so few in the CDCA had an u15 side that that league didn’t happen. We had over 200 members for the first time in 2022, 29 players turned out for the 1st XI, 32 in the 2nd XI, 49 in the 3rd XI, 22 in the Ladies, 41 on Sundays and 58 in the play-cricket recorded junior section games with double that in other games and training. Despite this, survey responses were down 50% year-on-year, we cannot sell anywhere near enough tickets for an annual dinner and AGM attendance was also a low percentage. It’s quite clear that everyone’s cricket season has understandably closed and our membership has moved onto Football, Rugby or other Sports. This is a powerful lesson for the 2023 season and also completely understandable and we’ll look at changing as many club dates as possible to being in the season to maximise engagement, publicising these as early as possible.
Given slow uptake in sales, we will be forced to cancel the Christmas Dinner and refund those who have bought tickets which I will do in the next few days. Next year, I think it is more likely the club will look to have something at the end of the season on the same day as the Club Awards Day, which includes packing the club up for the Winter. Spond Membership will be rejigged for everyone over the Winter to include Club Events and squad changes for the youth. We learned some lessons last summer using the app for the first time and I know several of our members found Spond alerts irritating.
The main objective for 2023 is to increase regular club participation by both senior players & parents. Poulton can no longer be a club where players just turn up expecting to use fantastic facilities. This is not sustainable for either the club or those members who do plough their time into preparing wickets, serving in the bar or kitchen, coaching, organising sides & fixtures, doing the administration, ensuring the highest safeguarding standards and fundraising. Unless the burden of running a club is shared, then volunteers there are buckle and eventually stop. We also achieve more.
It’s important to highlight that to get involved in coaching nights especially as a senior player, does not require a coaching qualification. The sessions must be lead by qualified coaches, we have ten, but to help on the evening we need to sort out DBS checks for you and that’s it. We’d obviously like as many members go through the simplified coaching qualifications as possible but having a first XI player help coach an Under 11 for a session can’t be underestimated in terms of the impact it has on that young player.
My hope is that EVERY senior player gets involved in the club in some capacity even if it’s just a few hours over the entire summer to start with whether coaching or something else.
HIRING WILLOW TURF CARE & FUNDING THIS INVESTMENT
A further serious example of volunteer shortages is that we are left with no choice but to employ a Groundsman for 2023. Graham Clarke supported by Max Arnold, Rob Ireland, Cliff Cutts and several others prepared 86 wickets and outfields for all youth sections, Ladies & the 1st and 2nd XI in 2022. This has been an unbelievable commitment and without any viable internal options for 2023 we have needed to look externally to the Club.
Willow Turf Care are the choice having worked on the square before. Richie Woodmason who runs it gave up a Sunday at the start of the season when we lost Wayne and put it to bed as well. Richie and his team will do an amazing job but unlike previous grounds efforts, it won’t be for free. Richie is a former deputy head Groundsman at Trent Bridge and has worked in Australia at the WACA as well as at the Bristol County Ground so while Englands will obviously be his most prestigious ground, we are delighted to get him on board. For labour alone it is £10-12k/year. This is a huge sum of money but broken down into what it represents, it is effectively £18 per hour for 13 hours a week for 52 weeks. Obviously more hours are spent in the Summer than Winter but when split out like this it shows what goes into our sport. Put another way It’s £141 per pitch or £13 per home player (no matter age) per home game. This also puts our membership fees and the value of volunteers into perspective.
The outfield and wider ground will remain our responsibility.
There are no easy options for us to meet this cost. We need to dramatically change income, continue cost management and supercharge fundraising. We might lay on another Beer festival, but will certainly need several fundraising events and ideas. Liam James has agreed to take a fundraising role on and his 100 Club is the first of these with a Golf Day coming in 2023. If all the squares are sold, the 100 club would make £6,000 per year, with the other £6,000 going in prizes to players please Enter the 100 Club HERE
A beer fest is good fun and can bring in £3,000 but is a massive logistical challenge and admin burden. Re-introduced 1st & 2nd XI Match Fees could raise £2,000, Sponsorship/Donations (we are a registered charity) £4,500, Food Sales £1,000, Cricket Camps £3,000 and subs tweaks another £1,000. In summary, the increased cost is achievable (all these numbers have been hit in recent years) but it needs a club wide buy in. Once done our primary exposure is then looking after Richie and his team so they want to keep working for us.
From the Committee’s point of view, there are improvements we can make to keeping the club aware of what is happening and what needs doing. This will be done. Discussing this at the AGM though, we will ensure the news section of the website is updated and we will use social media to highlight when it is as we are conscious that endless alerts on WhatsApp & Spond are just irritating and lead to valuable groups being silenced/left. A fundraising page will soon be up on the website detailing projects and progress. As mentioned above, early communication of events like getting the club ready for the season, along with jobs that need doing will be done early. One parent mentioned various excellent suggestions in his/her survey including showing people how things work in the bar and the pavilion would be a good idea. We will do this as well.
GOALS FOR 2023
Those who did answer the surveys indicated a pretty decent consensus on club development goals for 2023. The surveys revealed that 40% of our senior players and 80% of our parents are not aware of our Club Development Plan. This is on the website with a link to it on the homepage but so that everyone is aware of what we are working for this year, I wanted to outline the goals as of today. We will add others as a committee as needed/manageable.
Investing in Englands
Our facilities are everything and the more we look after them, the more they will look after us. We are known across the county for our square and this has attracted more than a few players to play for Poulton over the years.As mentioned, we put the ground to bed for the Winter and have been very lucky with the weather, seeing good grass growth on the square. We’ll finish our season earlier in 2023. 76% of the club wanted Englands investment done.
Upgrading the Bar & Social area in the Englands Pavilion
Now we are again an ECB Club Mark club until 2025, we can qualify for material funding and there is plenty available from the County Grants Fund with this is under way. 71% of you wanted us to work on this. Three main aims are 1) renovating the kitchen, 2) Improving the bar serving area & store cupboard and 3) sorting out the internal pavilion seating. If we can make the pavilion a better place to spend time then things like Winter Quiz nights become possible and the pavilion can be more standalone in terms of earnings, saving the cricket club money to invest elsewhere. Any changes to the pavilion require our freeholder’s consent. This is next in the queue when I have a properly costed proposal to take to them. If any club members or parents would like to quote for this work, please contact me.
Reorganisation of the Youth Section
We are planning for the under 7s to under 13s to train on Friday evenings with under 15s and 19s on Thursdays with the senior squad as they have been. The restart of an under 7s section as well as investing in the Under 9s section will be instead of allocating resources to the Allstars & Dynamos programme. Lucy Ireland is going to apply her phenomenal organisational ability to our youth section in 2023 and I can’t personally thank her enough for stepping up to do this incredibly important role. Lucy kept me on track with the under 11s in 2022 and that was no mean feat. Bringing the sections together to train should pool coaching resources more easily while also freeing up evenings for groundwork. This should cover off the feedback from the 55% of the Parent surveys of wanting more/different coaches and enable a greater focus on bowling (55%) and fielding (38%) for the 2023 season. We will also focus on our u15s section and getting them games.
Investing in Girls & Ladies Cricket
We held regular girls training in 2022 and will repeat this in 2023 with the goal of a girls team and squad absolutely the focus here. This will provide a natural pathway into not just our Women’s XI but also the Senior League sides. We are going through a Female Friendly Accreditation from the Girls Sports Club which is recommending a variety of other steps we need to take to look after our girls. These will be in place for the 2023 season and communicated to relevant members & parents.
Laying on more Club Socials.
On top of the Beer Festival, we had a good new club awards day and two organised socials in 2023. I think the focus of the socials has to be less on the event and as much as possible just attending and different people getting involved to help on the bar or BBQ when all three Saturday squads return to the pavilion. We will be altering our licence so that any club member over 18 can serve behind the bar and that you must be a club member of some sort to be there. The AGM revealed a need for Parent focussed/family friendly socials. 48% of the club want more.
Gray Nicolls sell youth kit for the club already but we need shirts for our new youth teams and will look at a cost effective solution here and see if we can bring it into the wider junior section too so they feel part of the club.
Senior Playing Goals
For the 1s the plan is consolidation in the top half of Division 1. For the Twos, while 38% of the club wanted us to focus on their promotion again, we will go for this in 2024 and aim to consolidate in division 7 of the GCCL while for the 3s, it’s a top half finish. For the Ladies, it’ll be a regrouping season in the CDCA league with young players coming in and the Captain needing support from all areas.
Overall the season ahead is incredibly exciting after what was already a brilliant 2022 but as the length of this letter shows, there’s a lot to do, work on and improve. Please do have a think and come forward for whatever you feel you can contribute to whether a couple of hours helping coach, volunteering on the bar, fundraising, mowing, administration or working on any of the above goals. Please contact me for any questions with any suggestions. (Future messages won’t be this long!)