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Chairman's Report 2016


Posted by on 27/01/2017 10:50


 

NORTHUMBERLAND CRICKET BOARD CHAIRMANS REPORT 2016

The last twelve months has been one of major change within the game with fundamental restructuring of ECB. This has occupied significant focus throughout the year as we try and understand the implications of “Cricket Unleashed” for the recreational game, particularly at local level.

As part of this plan ECB have just announced they are to double the contribution they make to the Chance to Shine programme in schools, as well as designing and rolling out a major new entry level programme “All Stars Cricket” aimed at 5 8 year olds.

Details of this programme are still being worked out and the implications for the Board in terms of staff re-training as well as club programmes are just emerging. The programme has a strong volunteer recruitment element aimed at parents supporting their children and clubs, which was extremely successful in Australia.

It is certainly a different approach and will require a change of emphasis in some clubs. However the marketing and financial support from ECB gives the game a unique opportunity of growing the game from the bottom, to coincide with a population bulge and the staging within the UK of the Women’s World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy (2017), Ashes (2018) and Men’s World Cup in 2019.

With all the national changes, it has been a case of business as usual for the Board in most areas of our operation over the last 12 months with some really positive developments within the region.

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I reported last year the game finds itself at a crossroads with the number of people playing regular matches in teams decreasing. This has continued with an increasing number of fixtures being conceded or played with less than full sides.

The Board with partners ECB and the Jesmond Cricket Trust did provide significant investment for covers and drying equipment to try and “Get the game on” and protect grounds from the weather. We also tried to target clubs who were identified as being short sided or conceding with offers of coaching through the “Have a hit” sessions. This later initiative had mixed results depending on the buy in from clubs.

The ongoing discussions around the formation of a pyramid system across the region made a real break through with NTSL agreeing to join the system and thus allowing the opportunity for Northumberland clubs to reach the ECB North East Premier League. This resulted from the NEPL adjusting their playing conditions following insight from player surveys and engagement with the Pyramid Working Group. This will have positive implications for the county at all levels. The working group has agreed and published the criteria around qualification for promotion, so clubs will know in advance whether their facilities and club structure meet the criteria. This is something that is probably the most significant league development in 40 years in the region.

There have also been some positive discussions around the possible merger of the Northumberland Tyneside Senior League and Northumberland League. There remain challenges particularly at the lower levels as travelling distances, formats and facilities all impact upon participation figures. The monitoring systems have identified a particular significant spike in concessions and short sided games during the summer holidays, which should concern us and exercise our minds about the flexibility of programmes if we are to overcome this. The Board are not directly involved in these talks but I remain encouraged by the positive noises I hear from those involved.

We again saw a turnover of staff with Dan Humble leaving us and James Morgan joining us. I would like to thank Dan for his efforts on behalf of the Board. James was already working in some of the Boards programmes and has fitted in easily.

The Board of Directors has had the challenging task of trying to navigate the various changes at national level as well as the impact at local level of changes affecting our partners in the local authorities. This included a number of meetings around the

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country culminating in the release of the ECB’s “Cricket Unleashed” programme. This plan with impact at all levels of the game. I would like to thank the Board of Directors for their continuing commitment and expertise during these discussions.

Last year we were extremely fortunate to recruit John Maude following his retirement from the position of CEO of North Country Leisure. John’s many years at the forefront of sports development is an invaluable addition to the organisation and he has been heavily involved in this process.

Our Finance Director Larry Dawson continues to manage the complex reporting structures required by our various funders and ensures the Board of Directors have regular updates on the financial position.

Bill Batey was kept very busy dealing with the various staffing changes, and Gordon Halliday has been fully employed navigating changes in the pyramid system and in league matters throughout the year.

Kevin Stephenson joined the Board of Directors last year in a marketing role as we seek to attract more funding into the game locally. He was instrumental in staging the Oddball’s match which raised funds for the Youth Trust and increased the profile of the work we do. Kevin also constantly challenges our approach to activities in line with the marketing approach adopted by ECB. Michael Thewlis also plays a key role in drawing out the relevant data from all of the feedback being generated from the ECB surveys and our own research.

Lisa Scott, the driving force around our migration project and whose work has driven the Women’s game, also joined the Board of Directors and was kept extremely busy through her multiple activities.

Throughout these busy times Julia Stenhouse has kept the office running efficiently and has been able to relieve Ian Wardle of some of his workload.

Our work relies heavily upon the financial support of the charities Chance to Shine and The Tony Blair Foundation for which we are very grateful. Chance to Shine has also undergone major changes with a much greater emphasis going forward on primary school programmes. This aligns much more with our club structure and traditionally has been a real driver of growth.

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Traditionally the Board and its forerunners were tasked with running county junior teams, Coach and Officials’ education, and school visits. A key focus for the Board this year has been to develop a more club-facing role.

I reported last year on a ground breaking scheme to promote the transition from schools to clubs following our staff visits. This has again been a success although we underestimated the capacity needed to deliver this on a wider scale. We were also not blessed with ideal weather in the early stages of the season. However a full programme of school visits was undertaken with once again improved migration figures into clubs.

At club level Bruce Storey undertook and evaluation of club junior programmes and staffing. Tony Robson also worked closely with clubs on providing the appropriate support and programmes for new entrants to the game. There remains much work to be done in this area but I would refer all members to the fantastic new coaching resource “i-coach cricket” which will help underpin much of our future coaching. The new entry level programme “All Star Cricket” is nationally delivered with the aim of ensuring a child in Cornwall or Northumberland receives the same introduction to the game when entering a club. The marketing and resources being co-ordinated and made available looks like a real game changer and expressions of interest are being sought at this very moment. The anticipation is it will ensure younger age children are introduced to the game in a positive way and build a life long affiliation to the game as a player, follower or administrator as well as recruiting extra valuable volunteers. The impact upon clubs is expected to be significant.

We also extended our programme of indoor competitions for the adult game for both men and women. Sixty three teams registered in 2016-17 and I anticipate this number will continue to grow. The aim remains to provide opportunities to play whenever and wherever we can.

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We have now delivered the new ECB Level 2 qualification for three winters and I would like to thank our dedicated Coach Education team led by Bruce Storey, Steve Nutt, Tony Robson, Jon Benn and Dougal Moir for their efforts in making this happen. Coaches can now take a course aimed at those who work with younger children and a separate course for those who work with older children and adults.

There has also been a Coach Support Worker Course rolled out aimed at encouraging new volunteers for clubs. I suspect this will be extremely popular as the new entry level programme develops, one of its attractions being there is no exam at the end and no cricket expertise required, tied in with new resources icoachcricket.

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I would like to congratulate the Northumberland Minor County side managed by Stuart Tiffin on being runners up in the Minor Counties Championship Eastern Division finishing on the same number of points as Lincolnshire. The Board continues to support the Development XI managed by Steve Williams and with Dougal Moir assisting with the coaching.

A special mention to South Northumberland CC for a magnificent achievement, winning the Royal London ECB Club Championship, giving them a hat trick of national titles in recent years. The development of the club and its fantastic facilities which has seen them host Durham CCC games must be one of the highlights of the game in the county in recent years.

One of the Board’s key activities is to run representative sides at youth level. This year saw 135 fixtures played at county and District level. Amongst our emerging players, special mention should go to Luke Doneathy (Stocksfield) who was the batsman of tournament at U14 Oundle festival, Max Williamson, Luke Mussett (Both Benwell Hill) who are training with Durham Academy, Mohsin Mukhtar (Newcastle City) with 3 centuries and Matthew Stewart (Alnwick) as the County’s top wicket taker.

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The womens game continues to grow in strength both at local league level and with our representative sides. Congratulations to Corbridge CC on winning the league for the first time. Corbridge Middle School also reached national finals day at Edgbaston. The county under 13 girls team won 14 out of 15 games during the year winning their league and the Northumberland Sport “Team of the year award. The girls under 15 team also won their league. At senior level there was an outstanding performance against Cumbria with Northumberland Women winning by 168 runs with a county record partnership of 211 between Ami Campbell (135) and Amy Nicholson (63) backed up with 5-27 by Kelly Withycombe. I would like to give a special mention to Lisa Scott who has not only worked tirelessly to promote the Women and Girlsgame but whose video work was the cornerstone of the successful work in schools and which you can see regularly on our social media sites.

We should also celebrate the efforts of our coaches who do so much to support youngsters coming into the game and through the Development of Excellence programme. Thanks to Dan Shurben in his role as Player Pathway Manager. In conjunction with the ECB, Dan has implemented a revised programme and is currently undertaking the prestigious level 4 training.

With regard to the Umpires and Officials, I would like to warmly congratulate Alan Howe on being rewarded with an OSCA for his many years of dedication and good humour. Alan has been a great servant of umpiring over the years and I thank him on behalf of all who have benefitted from his efforts and skill.

On a less positive note there remains a challenge around the recruitment and retention of officials. The presence of independent and trained umpires comes out strongly in the research around player’s enjoyment. The recent research around player behaviour towards umpires is a sad state of affairs and we need to collectively as a game eradicate this.

Returning to the positives, Blagdon CC stalwart Andy Prior was also a worthy recipient of an OSCA for many years of dedication to the game in a variety of roles.

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I would also like to give a specific mention to another OSCA winner, Corbridges Jenny Wilkes who was the National runner up of the Young Volunteer Award for her activities at the club, in particular her response to the devastating floods following Storm Desmond. Jenny was also a recipient of a Sport Newcastle “Unsung Hero Award” for her efforts.

On that note I would like to thank all those who contributed in so many ways on helping Corbridge recover from what was a scene of utter devastation. The club managed to recover and fulfil their playing commitments in 2016 and with not inconsiderable efforts by the clubs officials hope to emerge in an even greater position in 2017 with a new pavilion. It was an uplifting example of the cricket community coming together.

Congratulations and thanks to our other OSCA winners Gary Roe, Ian Smith, Mike Horrocks and Colin Walker.

Our efforts to ensure the game is available to all are helped by our partnership with Gateway into the Community which run sessions for disabled people wanting to take

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part in cricket in Hexham. Tom Cant continues to provide fantastic support all year round for the scheme. Working with specialist groups has proved a most successful way of spreading interest in the game. We have also worked with disability groups Alnwick Lionheart and Blue Door North Shields to promote the game.

Lastly and but by no means least, may I pay tribute to the continuing work of Ian Wardle who has dealt with tremendous change and challenges over the last year in addition to a family bereavement, house move and expanding family commitments. Travelling around the country meeting members of the ECB and other officials, it is apparent to me the high regard in which Northumberland is held amongst our partner organisations and much of this is a reflection of Ian’s professional and dedicated work and I am grateful he has remained with the county despite alternative offers.

Russell Perry
Chairman
Northumberland Cricket Board