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Secretary's Report to 2018 AGM

posted Feb 2, 2018, 1:44 AM by Malcolm Fletcher
Ladies and gentlemen, I reflect on 2017 with a huge amount of personal pride – which I hope you all share in.

The year got off to a great start from a personal point of view when the League bestowed life membership on me at the 2017 AGM. I was puzzled as to why, but honoured and humbled in equal measure. Honouring people for their efforts while they are able to enjoy the acclaim is something very important to me and the League – and it’s something we will continue later tonight as three more deserving Mid Shropshire stalwarts (John Hughes, Steve Wall and Frank Booth) get their moment in the spotlight.

Since succeeding the late Ray Butler as secretary in 2011, my over-riding goals have been to secure the long term future of the League, give it a more modern feel by introducing new ideas as smoothly as possible and to make it one of the powerhouses of Shropshire bowls again.

And the proud securing of a £7,000 grant from Sport England in September to pay for five sets of modern coaching equipment can help the League achieve all of those things.

I’m tired of member clubs complaining of falling memberships and a lack of younger bowlers - and we still seem to lose as many teams as we gain each season.

But now, with the help of this grant and our qualified coaches led by Pauline Wilson, we have the tools for clubs to use to try and stem the decline. They just need to take a positive approach, organise coaching sessions for all ages, advertise them as widely as they can and even approach their local schools to spread the message far and wide that bowls is not an old man’s game – it is an inclusive sport for everyone of any age.

The successful grant bid, albeit at the second attempt and after an EGM, followed on from the launch of our Junior Development Policy at the after school bowls club at Hadley Learning Community and Charlton. With Paul Taylor taking over the reins, this scheme enjoyed a second successful year, delivering new members for the host club.

Shifnal and Sinclair continue to benefit from their junior coaching programmes, the Ketley club being awarded a £500 grant from train operating company London Midland thanks to vice-chairman Steve Roberts. And on a personal note, I would like to thank Steve for everything he has done for the League and myself as he now leaves the post after 5 years.

It was the league’s juniors who gave me the biggest bowls thrill of the year. Thanks to people too many to name, we amazingly organised two teams to travel to Ludlow for the Shropshire junior inter-league championship in September. We drew with the host league’s red hot favourites on their own patch and came away with silverware as winners of the consolation cup. Captained by League and County Junior Merit winner Harry Church, these under-18s did themselves and Mid Shropshire proud – and their smiles made this job worth all the effort.

Sticking with the playing side of 2017, Hadley USC returned from the Premier League to regain the first division championship, Sir John Bayley ended the St Georges domination of the Dennis Lewis Thursday Division and Sinclair retained the Saturday division title. 

The Dragons recovered to end Newport’s hold on the Harris Cup, Wrockwardine Wood won the Ashton Cup yet again and the Dave Ellis Memorial Shield was re-launched as a Mid Shropshire ladies against gents challenge which the men won with a good captain at Sinclair!

From a secretarial point of view it has been a fairly smooth year with just one appeal heard by the new disciplinary committee, so ably chaired by Colin Rudrum. We have tried to address its findings later on the agenda under Proposals for Rule Changes.

These proposals include other advances such as the payment of green fees to clubs hosting League competitions, a fee for people who serve on disciplinary committees and one later in the season bill for club accounts.

But there’s other progress still to be made. We can do more on welfare and safeguarding issues and, on the subject of helping hands, your chairman Sean Round is eager to launch an informal self-help group for greenkeepers to share knowledge accumulated over the years.

If we vote Shawbury’s Elephant & Castle into the League later we will be extending our geographical boundary even further. And our influence already spreads beyond that as both the Tanners Shropshire and Whitchurch leagues have adopted our Code of Conduct – and the Tanners have even followed us by moving their annual presentation dinner to January!

And we continue to have a strong voice at county executive level with your delegates being behind the proposal to change the way future County Presidents are nominated.

As for 2018, we aim to launch a Club Person of the Year award, hold the two Ashton finals on the same day at the same venue, re-start the Junior Doubles, target new sponsors and carry out yet more trophy upgrades to make them all things to be proud of winning.

Being the compere for the presentation of those trophies at the annual presentation dinner earlier this month - as stand-in for Phil King - was also a proud if nerve-wrecking time for me.

This function, easily the biggest in Shropshire bowls, is one we should all be rightly proud of. But with attendances of 200-plus I have to admit it has become a bit of a monster for me and my wife Margaret. Put simply, without her efforts I don’t think it would happen . . .

That’s one of the main reasons why I feel we need to appoint an assistant secretary - so that he or she can get an insight into what goes into running this fine League of ours.

I have committed to one more year in this role and then we will have to see what the future holds. But it would seem to me that the future would be a whole lot brighter if we could get a natural successor in place and learning the secretarial ropes.

Oh, and one last piece of news – Ashley Paterson told me at the dinner that Molson Coors will sponsor the League again to the tune of £800 in 2018.

Now can you understand the pride?

Thank you.