2015 AGM Chairman’s Report

Chairman’s AGM Report – 22nd June 2015

Welcome to this year’s AGM. It has been yet another positive year with more children, families and teams involved with Buntingford Cougars than ever. Before I was Chairman our membership stood at 187 members. We did not have teams at every age group and we often struggled to get our under7s up and running properly.

It’s quite different today; we have squads every age group, which achieves our aim of offering football to every child. Our Cougars Cubs and Under6’s are flourishing, so we have easily enough to get our first age group going and as we close out this season our Under16s intend to take two squads into the Under18’s section next year. Our membership now stands at 300 members, a 60% growth in just two years.

So what’s happened on the pitch in the last twelve months?

Cougars Cubs started again in September run by Luke Fone who was later joined by Alex Doncaster. We have given about 40 three to five year olds their first taste of fun football sessions. I have seen and indeed delivered a couple of sessions and I must say it’s good fun. I would like to thank the people who established Cougars Cubs this season, namely Martin Stevens, his son Josh and of course Luke and Alex. From September Alex will take about half of the group onto the under6’s section whilst Luke will remain as Cougars Cubs Coach and they will both be looking for some additional support.

Our Under6’s have been coached by Phil Allen, Craig Ivison, Emma Hawthorne and latterly Scott Nash and are starting to form a good management structure with Niall Tallis taking on some of the admin and communication tasks. They played a few friendlies in the last few months and attended tournaments and the feedback from within the squad and from other clubs is really positive. They finished this season with about 18 players and are hoping to put in three teams into the Under7’s section in September. Thanks to all of the coaching staff in the Under6’s.

The Under7’s had a great season on the pitch and confirmed that we have some very talented footballers at that age group and some great committed coaches in Luke Fone and Ricci Crace. It has been good to see that some of the players have been identified by academy clubs with Tottenham, Cambridge and Stevenage looking at several players in the last year. What we didn’t know last year was that we also have a fine Coach in Tom Curtis, who stepped forward in January to take on the Stripes and Royals squad and I must say has done a fantastic job. At the same time Jo Vottariello stepped up to support the communication and organisation of that squad and again has done a remarkable job. The squad has also benefited from the contribution and experience of Sean Curran and I am very grateful to Sean for his help as well as Matty Adams who has helped coach the boys. Their season was topped off with both the Blues team and the development team winning their respective cups at the Royston Crow tournament, it was well deserved.  I would like to thank Luke, Ricci, Tom, Jo, Matty and Sean for their support for our Under7’s.

Our Under8’s under the stewardship of Wes Cook did well with a very polarised squad; meaning that they have a pretty strong Blues team and a true development team with the Whites who suffer when clubs just bring their A team to play two matches. It has been pleasing to see Wes develop a team around him with Spencer Pugh continuing to support him and the introduction of Ken Hayes, Jason Salmon and Greg Garner to support the development team. A highlight for me was to see the side win a penalty shoot – out at our tournament against Ware Lions, In Wes’s words – “that was our cup final and we will remember it for a long time”. I am pleased to say that Wes is confident that the squad will continue to be able to field two under9’s teams next season as they move up a format to 7 a-side football.

The Under9’s grew again led by Danny Skipp. Dan now has a network of coaches around him to facilitate the squad growth with Damien Kennedy, Steve Arnold and Ollie Townsend all becoming part of the team. Our Under9s is also a very polarised squad but it was good to see the management team identify a couple of clubs who had similarly aligned teams and arrange fixtures with them. I saw a few occasions where the Under9’s Whites were celebrating some great performances. Our Under9’s also have some talented players; we have had Orran Taylor at Cambridge now for over a year and I was delighted to hear that Finlay Walker and Freddie Arnold have also been invited to Cambridge United.

Our Under10’s enjoyed probably their most stable year so far with Danny Miles doing a sterling job. Danny has is now supported by Richard Bentley, and more recently Scott Piggott and Charley Barker. It was pleasing last week to hear that our Under10’s lad Olly Baker was retained as a Stevenage academy shadow squad player – so congratulations to Olly. Even more pleasing is that as this squad goes up to 9v9 next season Danny is confident that he will have at least twenty players to maintain the two team structure, so good news.

Our Under11’s ended last season with two teams going into 9v9 but started the season with three as we enabled ex Hormead players to play after their side folded. With an A team and two development teams plus a load of new players it was tough for me trying to oversee everything but we ended up having a reasonable season with our Blues competing in division three and our Whites and Stripes in division five enduring some heavy defeats early on but ending the season strongly. I am also delighted to say that Lily Hall has attended an open session with Spurs Ladies and feedback was positive, she is going again this week. I would like to thank Dean Howard, Darryl Dean and Ian Jenkins for their support along with a few dads who chipped in too.

Our Under12’s are a large single team, they finished sixth in a fourteen strong third division which was a good result. Manager Paul Skinner was joined by Ross Craddock who has had a positive impact both on and off the pitch. If you saw our Under12’s at the tournament you would have seen togetherness and a squad ethic that was impressive. I would also like to thank Nathalie Skinner who I believe does much of the paperwork.

Our Under13’s continued to grow and had about 36 players registered last season. Richard Thorpe’s Blues battled admirably to complete in the top division and Bobby White’s Whites team finished third in division three. The highlight for me was to see an Under13’s side win our tournament. I would like to thank Richard, Dave Walker and Charlie Owen for their support with the Blues and for the Whites my gratitude goes to Bobby White, Dave Johnson and Rob Hawthorne. I believe that Richard Thorpe is standing down from his role and will be replaced by Martin Stevens, I would like to thank Richard on behalf of the club, who has managed our Under13’s, coached last year’s Under16’s Whites with Mark Watrson and was a valued ex committee member.

Our Under14’s last season struggled for results but I admire the commitment and determination of Kev Ridgewell. I have been worried for this squad because of numbers but we seem to be in a better position than before with new players starting to train at the end of the season and Kev confident about next season.

The Under15’s in the Mid Herts league had a fantastic season and I want to congratulate the players on reaching the premier league play off and for winning the Cougars tournament. Following their presentation evening on Friday I also want to thank the staff and parents for their support and the team spirit that clearly exists in this squad amongst everyone. Well done to Chris Adams, Bruce Knapp and Andy Share.

Our Under16’s Whites had a difficult year with some management changes but it was good to see their last home match played at The Bury end in an emphatic victory. I would like to thank the outgoing Jason Rowley for his support to the squad over many years and Pete Briffet and Andy MacMeachin who took over from him.

Our Under16’s Blues enjoyed another strong season finishing as league and cup runners up. It should not be taken away from Sean Curran and the lads that they are a strong and well respected team. Thanks go to John Smith, Brad Hill and of course Sean for leading the side. I must say that seeing Sean’s congratulatory email to the league winners Hitchin proves for me that he is without doubt a real credit to Buntingford Cougars. I am delighted to see both Under16’s teams go into the Under18’s section next season and I wish them both well.

So what about off the pitch?

The soccer schools have seen 425 bookings over eleven days in the last year and netted the club about £1,260. Thanks to the Soccer School Coaches; Lewis Endacott, Matt Campany, Danny Skipp and Charley Barker. Thanks also go to Emma Vater who usually does the registrations.

The schools tournament was a fantastic success thanks to Barry, Sara, Emma and Sharon for what you do.

Fundraising was a bit hit and miss this year. The quiz night was not as successful as the two previous years, the Halloween party didn’t seem to excite people and the Celebrity Spurs and Arsenal night had to be cancelled. However there were some individual squad successes with the Under11’s raising over £600 bag packing at The Co-Op and the Under9’s having a quiz night and race night, both of which were profitable and went straight into club funds. Fund-raising is clearly something that we need to develop a proper strategy on and decide what we should do as a club.

Grant awards were better than ever thanks to Susan Lankester. This is a crucial part of how the club operates as it ensures that we can obtain funds to improve finances, facilities, coaching and equipment whilst keeping member fees affordable. We have had (I think) grant awards of around £3,000 plus two MacDonalds kits.

Our biggest fundraising event of course was successful as we hosted our biggest ever tournament with lots of positive feedback. I would like to thank everyone involved with the tournament, particularly Martin, Helen, Emma, Sarah, Pete, and the Calverts, who like me, spend many an hour as unpaid volunteers to deliver a fantastic tournament that is loved by so many.

Our referee scheme continues to offer youngsters the support and opportunity to get into refereeing and I was impressed with Under16’s player Paul Briffet and Under15’s boys Matt Adams, Luke Garratt, Reece Knapp, Liam Smith and Matthew Share for their refereeing performances either in regular matches or at our tournament. I am also impressed and grateful to young volunteers from within the club or recent leavers who help coach; Matty Adams, Josh Stevens, Reece Voller and Ben Walker spring to mind.

We use many facilities around the town including schools and town council facilities and I would like to thank Buntingford Town Council, Buntingford Cricket Club, Edwinstree School and Freman College. Of course The Bury is our home and I would like to thank Barry and the team for a facility that many clubs envy.

I would also like to thank our many team and event sponsors. It was good to see this year that we had both the tournament sponsored – by WKH Developments – and the presentations supported – by SJ Tokely Repairs. Thank you to those businesses and all of our team sponsors.

My efforts in trying to improve the structure of mini soccer in the Crow league and squad sizes of A and B teams is gaining some traction with several clubs voicing their support to my proposal. I will be making the proposal to the league and fellow club Chairmen at this week’s AGM so I hope I will be able to report some good news following that.

What does the Future hold?

So, what are our key challenges going forward? I would like to see the committee for the next year recognise that these are probably the key issues:

  1. Facilitating and managing membership growth; We are the biggest volunteer organisation in the area and our popularity is growing along with the local population, resulting in more children joining. Whilst this is a positive position, it will put pressure on our resources and facilities so we must structure better.
  2. Staff qualifications, particularly CRC’s (criminal record checks) must be valid.
  3. Establishing a pitch plan that is understood and supported by all teams as well as the facility owners is key. That is going to take time; focus and courage form the committee as well as some faith from teams, parents and managers who must be encouraged to understand the issue from a wider club perspective.
  4. By far my biggest concern remains floodlit winter facilities. This is an area that if I am elected as Chairman I would like to prioritise immediately.

In order to address the crucial issues and the big stuff we undoubtedly need a strong committee that I hope will be elected tonight. A committee with people who will take ownership and responsibility for some aspects of the club such as soccer schools, kits, facilities, school liaison and day to day issues.

This will enable me to focus on the major issues and opportunities that exist and will mean me personally relinquishing some activities that I feel now have a solid platform to operate smoothly e.g. soccer schools.

Finally, on the subject of our committee. I would like to thank the committee for their hard work and support over the last year. VP’s Barry, Fitzy and Mark Ganellin have always been available when I have needed them. Pete our Vice Chair is always there with his shell like ear to listen to me banging on, thanks Pete. Irene and Steve’s help with registrations and helping me create a great club email database is much appreciated. Although we don’t see them at committee meetings, Sadie and Karen’s help with fixtures and Susan’s grant schemes are much appreciated. Emma, Helen, Sara, Dave I appreciate your support with admin, finances and club welfare duties in addition to the other stuff that you do – it doesn’t go unrecognised or unappreciated by me. Phil, Danny and Martin, love your football brains and your ideas are usually good. Stevie T, Sharon and Sean, as always I appreciate your support and your help in making things happen.

That ends my Chairman’s report and I am happy to take any questions on it now or after the meeting.

Richard Daly

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