Chairman’s Report – Whitton Lions RFC
Well what can I say? What a season. 2015/16 was the most successful season in the Lions’ short history and while we were pipped to the post in the Middlesex League Merit Table 6 Play Off final we have still gained promotion. What may have frustrated some clubs proved a testament to the strength of this season’s squad that we recorded a full house at the End of Season Dinner straight after the final where much merriment and celebration was had. We look forward now to a new season with new challenges.
The 2015/16 season was our best season yet. Up to Christmas the club had not been beaten and even recorded an impressive win over the eventual winners, Quintin. However, going into the New Year the club lost ground as teams began to find their form. However, the Lions dusted off their boots and fought to the end gaining a place in the Semi Finals against a formidable Hillingdon RFC. With an eye on the final the Lions refused to give up and recorded a 23-7 win. Reaching the final was in itself a historic time for the team and in the sun the team gave their all. It wasn’t to be but the second place finish earned the club promotion and entry into Merit Table 5.
2016/7 is going to be more challenging with new teams and a higher quality of rugby but I am confident that in the core team and new players the club will take it in their stride and make the new league our own.
Special mention must go to those players who achieved special recognition over the season. While all our players and supporters are integral to the club the following players were awarded as follows:
President’s Award: Stefan Rulewski
Players Player: Graeme Kirkpatrick
Most Tries Scored in the Season: Paul McDermott
Most Improved Player: Zach Casswell
Membership for 2015/16 was disappointing after such strong numbers from the previous season. Only 16 people paid membership of which one of these was a non-playing member. Additionally, many of the paid up members are longstanding or it is expected they may not be playing next season or the next. This means that much of the younger players and those that generally make the team do not pay membership which is unsustainable and unfair on those that do pay who miss out. It is therefore important for next season to encourage all players to ensure they pay their membership dues.
For the 2016/17 the club has frozen its prices once again which means that this will be the third year that the club has kept prices the same. Membership will be £60 and will include access to club training and summer activities plus membership of Whitton Park Sport Association. The price of membership is competitive with other clubs and in most cases cheaper.
Club finances remain robust largely through a bumper year of sponsorship. However, membership fees were significantly lower than the previous season. This will create difficulties if it is not rectified going into the new season and will impact upon the club’s ability to finance tours and off season activities. The accounts are now handled by local accountancy firm MHR Consultancy Ltd. Ongoing expenses include subscriptions to Middlesex Rugby, the RFU, and the London Referee’s society and pitch rental. It is expected that new kit and equipment will soon become necessary. It is hoped that with a pickup in membership and local activity membership fees and sponsorship will grow once more.
2015/16 was a very successful year for the Lions as we were graciously sponsored by The Prince Albert, The Golden Grill, Minal Pharmacy and the Spice of India. We thank our supporters without which we would have been unable to conduct such a comprehensive off season programme and put on our set piece end of season dinner. Once again, the Spice of India pulled out all the stops to provide us with the wonderful food. Sadly, Prince Albert will no longer be the title sponsor but after three seasons we have built a wonderful relationship and going forward the Club thanks the Prince Albert for its support and the pub itself will continue to be the Lions’ home from home.
The Lions has always been able to rely on a small army of volunteers and I would like once again to use this space to thank some of those that have gone that extra mile. Our President’s dinner was organised by Lauren Gray who put on a fantastic event for the team post the league final. I am happy to say that she has indicated that she would like to continue assisting the club and will be taking up a role managing our events and communications for the 2016/17 season.
Support has been something the Lions has not had to reach out for with a wealth of people coming down to watch and support the club on and off the field. Tim and Marco and Cameron’s Grandmother and Mother stand out rightly being rewarded at the President’s End of Season Dinner as Chief Supporters. A special mention should also go to Matt ‘Kiwi’ Anderson who has been a long-time supporter of the club and will be leaving us and the country. He wil be missed but we hope he keeps in touch and wears the shirt with pride wherever he goes.
As we move into the 2014/15 season Whitton Lions are in a strong position. We have a new membership package which is highly competitive with other local clubs and includes not only a free polo shirt but money off opportunities with local businesses. Combined with a great season of competitive fixtures, new competitions such as the Whitton Cup and social events we believe that the Lions offer a comprehensive package to current and new members. We look forward to building on the continued growth of the club and further success on the field.
The Lions have been built on the back of volunteers and has been extremely successful in being led by its players. However, for the club to continue to strive it will need a new and dedicated band of players and supporters who are willing to give it the time and resource it requires. There will also be difficult decisions to make and these will need to be made by the Board but success will depend on the support of the player base.
The club will also need to work hand in hand with the Whitton Park Sports Association and the other shareholder clubs to ensure that rugby continues to be a central part of the association’s plans. With a large amount of investment being planned and the cooperation of clubs required to bring in grants from their respective bodies a cooperative approach is essential with an outcome that could benefit the rugby club the most.
I would like to personally thank those on the Board who will be stepping down at the end of their terms this year. Barry Elliott, our Club President, has been with the Lions since its very formation. He has been central to the initial setting up of the club and used his contacts to attract sponsorship and local contributions to our floodlights. In fact, many may not know this but it was Barry who first corralled Dan Saxby into the club and pushed his subsequent promotion to Club Captain. Barry has worked tirelessly and was often seen, especially in the first few seasons, taking on the role of water boy, team washer upper, kit cleaner and general handy man.
I would also of course like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Dan Saxby, our first and most effective club captain. Without Dan the club would not have been able to attract the players it has and his organisation skills have allowed us to produce a rugby team week in week out. Dan works on a 24/7 rota and takes calls from players, referees, groundsmen and myself at any time of the day – even after his nightshift. He is a man of the people and thrives as being the central and lead member of the team. I could certainly not have progressed the club today to where it is without him. Thank You.
This report will also be my last report. It is a sad day for me having created the club out of a discussion over a drink and continuing to play and fulfil the role of Chairman over this five year period. I have watched it grow from a couple of players in Murray Park to the tentative team that recorded its first win against Hammersmith and Fulham in its first season reaching the play offs and finally even playing in the playoff final of the 2015/16 season. I have built up some wonderful memories and friends over that time and I believe the unique family atmosphere the club has built and nurtured has been its enduring strength. The club has also embedded itself in the community and has garnered the support of local officials, the RFU, Middlesex Rugby and local businesses but what always shines out for me is the support it has from local people and neighbours who attend our games and support the Lions week in week out. I will continue to support the Lions and be on hand to help and wish those that step up to the role of running the club every success in the future.
Come on you Lions!
Whitton Lions RFC