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Secretary's Report To the 2017 AGM

posted Feb 1, 2017, 12:40 AM by Malcolm Fletcher   [ updated Feb 6, 2017, 8:01 AM ]
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s annual meeting marks the end of an era for the Mid Shropshire League. After 16 years of unstinting effort, John Kitchen is standing down from the post of minute secretary and I feel I must use this opportunity to thank him – on your behalf – for his loyal service. And on a personal note I say an even bigger thank you John for all you have done for me in my six years as general secretary.

John has seen many changes during his long reign and perhaps the biggest of them – the Mike Becket on-line results system – continues to keep this league at the forefront of all things bowls in Shropshire.

Within seconds on a PC or mobile device you can see that Donnington Wood retained the division one championship in 2016 in commanding fashion and that Sir John Bayley bounced back to win a terrific three divisional titles.

I also salute Sinclair as first time winners of the Saturday Division - which we thankfully now look to have stabilised with just one division – while the competition remains as strong as ever in the Dennis Lewis Thursday Division as St Georges continue to rule the roost.

On the league’s freshened up website, now working in conjunction with Facebook posts, you can see that Craig Owen won the Mid Shropshire Merit for the second time last year and that Simon Oldcorn and Pete Millington retained the Dixon Driscoll Doubles crown.

In fact it was a good year for our competitions with organiser Phil King reporting record entries in many of them as we bucked the local and national trend of falling numbers. Phil was rightly proud that his son Aaron finally got his hands on the Under-18 Merit at the last attempt while a first ever all-girl final in the storm-hit Under-15 Merit saw Susie Lawson get her hands on the trophy. There was also a new Over-60s Merit won by Dave Brown.

The new handicapping system introduced in the Harris Cup seems to have worked because, although Newport’s Premier League team won the trophy for the fourth year in a row, three Mid Shropshire teams made it through to the semi-finals. Almost as noteworthy was a first time entry by Burway all the way from their Ludlow base! And two more cracking Ashton knockout finals, both decided by a handful of chalks, were a real pleasure to witness.

Pride of place on the team front though has to go to Mid Shropshire’s victorious veterans who, with Tony Roche once again at the helm, won the Shropshire veterans inter-league championship for an incredible fourth time in five years.

This time it was on home soil at Maddocks – and it would be wrong of me not to thank the Oakengates club, on the league’s behalf, for all it did for Mid Shropshire last year in terms of hosting events. It’s really good to see them back on an upward curve again. 

We were also proud to have two teams in the senior inter-league in 2016, a year which saw the League’s Sub Group continue to work well and also a successful DBS renewals night.

The League’s annual dinner earlier this month was slightly down on numbers but up on food and entertainment value. And the speeches were shorter than ever - so let’s encourage more of our bowlers to join the fun next year and get back over the 200 mark again!

It was good to see Ash Paterson of main sponsors Molson Coors at the dinner and he has confirmed that their backing of the League will be continuing this year.

But it wasn’t all good news in 2016 as misconduct issues, mostly connected with members of Donnington Wood’s first team, dogged the playing season. An emergency meeting with that club had some influence, but it was all rather sad - and made a number of your officers wonder if they really wanted to carry on in office.

I’m glad to say they do, but they want your support tonight for rule changes to introduce a Code of Conduct and a disciplinary committee chaired by Colin Rudrum.

There is nothing for bowlers to fear from this. It’s very simple – behave properly at league matches and competitions and there will be no problems.

But, as you all need to be aware, the BCGBA have already moved to tighten up their misconduct structure at their rules revision meeting.

The Code of Conduct is just one of the changes your League officers want to see in 2017.

We want to take control of our fixture dates, especially when we start and finish; we want a new March executive meeting as the cut-off point for team additions and withdrawals; we want to formalise a more flexible approach to new signings, especially of juniors, and transfers; our finances our sound so we can keep making loans to clubs in need; and we want to keep honouring more of the people who have served Mid Shropshire well over the years by making them life members – and that move starts later tonight.

But most of all we have a duty to the future of our member clubs and bowls in general to try and boost the number of youngsters taking up the sport we all hold so dear.

To that end we hope to modify and run the After School Bowls Club successfully launched at Hadley Learning Community and Charlton again this year - with a view to getting the sport introduced in the primary phase PE plans in 2018.

We want to work more closely with the exciting junior coaching sessions being run by Sinclair and, thanks to the effort of vice-chairman Steve Roberts, we hope to have a£500 Your Sporting Chance grant for them from London Midland very soon.

The League is also spearheading a bid to get a grant for £7,500 from Sport England to pay for five sets of junior coaching equipment, including small bowls, to be available for use by clubs all over the county, backed up by the necessary attendance of level one and two coaches.

So these are potentially exciting times, both here in Mid Shropshire and all over the county for junior development, and we are determined to drive them forward.

Thank you.