Chairman’s Statement 2015
Whitton Lions RFC
The 2014/15 season has been a season of mixed fortunes. On the pitch the Lions achieved their highest league position yet and reached the playoffs. Unfortunately we failed to achieve promotion but with a strong core of a squad it is hoped this could be achieved in 2015/16. Additionally, we have seen players come through the ranks and move on to new challenges. I am particularly proud to be able to announce that Dean Oliver has been contracted by London Scottish which is evidence that the Lions can be a platform for the stars of the future. We wish Dean every success and hope that he continues to keep in contact with the Club. Off the pitch, the Lions continue to cement its place as the premier local rugby team and support continues to grow. However, as new members have come in and older players have left the social and community side of the club has struggled. In addition, uncertainty over the ownership of the ground, a lack of information from Latyma School, the ultimate owners of the ground, and a need to conclude some legacy tax issues, continue to impact on the Lions.
The 2014/15 Season
The Lions performed superbly on the pitch throughout the season and fully justified getting into the play-offs. While promotion was ultimately not achieved it shows a continued improvement in the club which is still yet to reach its fifth birthday. Highlights of the season include the comprehensive win over London Welsh at the beginning of the season at that club's own famous ground, while further big scores against clubs such as CSSC Barbarians and Northolt shows the depth and strength of the squad. New players such as Dean Oliver, Sam Bevan, Lewis Turner and Seb Turner have brought a new skill level and excitement to the Lions’ game. Regular players such as Alex Sabin Hawthorne and Graeme Kirkpatrick continued to improve and inspire those around them justifying both player’s success in landing the Most Improved Player and Player’s Player Awards respectively.
However, numbers through the season continued to play on the team with a number of games being played with minimal or no subs, or in one case without the full complement throughout a game. This was particularly a shame against Hanwell in a game which was critical to the club’s league position and was winnable. Unfortunately, the Lions failed to notch up a win against Hanwell who have now managed to jump up a league restricting our opportunity to rectify this anomaly.
Problems also remain with the league structure. On more than one occasion the Lions faced a squad which was not made up of regular players which not impacted upon the skill level of those sides, normally significantly higher, but also created anomalies within the league which ultimately impacted the final league standings. The Lions Board will continue to challenge this through Middlesex Rugby.
Club Finance and Organisation
The Club continues to maintain a good financial standing thanks to record sponsorship in 2014/15 and a growing membership which will feed into new investment opportunities in 2015/16. In particular, the club has agreed to fund a training programme throughout the 2015/16 season with paid trainers to run the sessions mid-week. In addition, the club has agreed to set aside a specific budget for social events and I would like to thank Jenny Hunt who has agreed to take on the role of Social Secretary. Unfortunately, the club also received a number of unexpected fines from HMRC and Companies House from backdated late returns. As a result the club contracted local firm MHR Consultancy as its accountant and all filings and tax positions have been rectified.
Health and Safety
During the season the club experienced a number of minor injuries and one of a more serious nature which required an ambulance. As a result of this incident the Board took the opportunity to update its Health and Safety policy and will be displaying key policies and information within the clubhouse for the 2015/16 season. I would like to thank Jim Lindsay, as the club’s Health and Safety Officer, and Steve Hunt, who provided technical assistance, for pulling together these policies. Jim will be running a session with players to highlight these policies and to ensure that key players are aware of procedure and the location of health and safety equipment.
Membership and Recruitment
Whitton Lions membership throughout the 2014/15 season saw steady growth and reached its highest number yet with 27 players and non-players. This was part of a compelling package that included not only membership of the Lions and the right to play but also a free polo shirt and money off opportunities with our sponsors and local businesses. However, rugby remains the key draw and with higher chances of getting a game than many other local clubs and an open recruitment policy for all abilities. As a result we have seen young and old, skilled and unskilled join the Pride. Going into next season we have frozen the cost of membership and thanks to our sponsors will be retaining the off-pitch incentives. Over the summer the club has taken part and joined up to several social initiatives. I would like to thank in particular Graeme Kirkpatrick who led and organised the Lions’ first entry into the O2 7s tournament at Old Deer Park. In addition, the Lions entered the annual Fat Bloke 7s tournament, the Dragon Boat racing in Twickenham and was triumphant at the local tug of war at Murray Park. Non-rugby social events are seen as critical to building player relationships and getting the club known throughout the community and we expect them to yield additional members for the coming season.
The club will also be initiating a non-playing membership package for the 2015/15 season. This will be open to former players who want to retain a link with the club. This will be priced at £35 and will retain the off-pitch incentives.
Whitton Lions bears the name of the community it resides in and as such our community engagement has been important to the club. It not only aids in building awareness but also in recruiting new members. As a result the Lions continue to sign up to local events such as the Dragon Boat race as part of Twickenham Alive, the Tug of War for the Murray Park annual celebrations and also look to work with local businesses. It was a shame this year that the annual St George’s Day parade through Whitton High Street was cancelled but we hope to be part of it again next year. Whitton Lions is also expecting to join in the festivities over Christmas and will seek to hold a stall at the town’s turning on of its lights. It is also fair to say that the Lions are also established customers of our local public houses and in particular our sponsor the Prince Albert which has been a healthy source of recruitment to the club.
The club is blessed by a wealth of kind hearted people. I would like to thank Kelly Carter who has once again fed the team throughout the season and helped out off-pitch in many ways that would be too extensive to list here. Kelly will not be providing food next season as she would like to be able to watch the side so I would like to thank her for all her help and I and the club welcome her back pitch-side cheering us on. While I cannot mention everyone who has helped out and volunteered I would like to note a special thanks to Jenny and Steve Hunt who have stepped in by providing food or manning the bar. I would also like to thank the players who have all chipped in from giving each other lifts to away games and for keeping the club house tidy.
Whitton Lions continue to benefit from extremely generous sponsors. I would therefore like to thank last season’s sponsors BRG, Spice of India, Golden Grill and the Prince Albert Pub. I am happy to say that going into next season the Prince Albert Pub, Golden Grill and Spice of India have all agreed to renew their relationship with the club. This is fantastic news and continues to highlight the draw of the Lions. I am also pleased to announce a new sponsor, Minal Pharmacy, who will be gracing the shoulder of our proud shirt. This year is a particularly special year as it is the year of the World Cup and we look forward to working with our sponsors to put on some unique events to mark this occasion. It is perhaps just coincidence that the clubs sponsors are symbolic of a typical Lions’ night out: a curry, a pint, a kebab, and something for the hangover.
With the next season fast approaching I am happy to announce that we will be implementing some new and exciting initiatives. For 2015/16 we have heeded player’s desire for more money to be spent on the food and will be contracting a new food supplier. The club will also be investing in a trainer to take the mid-week sessions in order to build up skill levels and provide an added incentive for players in our bid for promotion. Thanks to the continuing level of sponsorship we have been able to freeze the cost of membership for 2015/16 and in addition we will investing in the social side of the club with the appointment of a social secretary with a specific budget to put on social events. I am happy to say that Jennie Hunt has agreed to take on this role and I look forward to the renewed social impetus.
With the World Cup coming to the area the 2015/16 season is going to be unique and I look forward to the Lions performing and growing on and off the pitch.
Cllr Gareth Elliott
Whitton Lions RFC