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Chairman’s Late Season Message 2018/2019

This update is a bit later than usual, but it’s been a busy time on the B&W committee so I hope you find this note of interest (it’s a bit long but as I say - a lot has been going on).

I hope that by now everyone is aware that since last summer, B&W and Jaspers have been eyeing each other up to see if a club merger might work. From the first time I met representatives of Jaspers HC committee at a local pub one summer evening I was very impressed, and I knew that our clubs could complement each other well. We therefore decided to move a little closer together with a view to potentially merging in time for the 2019/20 season. In most respects this has gone very well, with the two sets of ladies players getting to know each other and Jaspers making a valuable contribution to our committee. However, one issue that has been stubbornly difficult to resolve is training.

B&WL made it a condition early on that they and Jaspers must train together, and so Jaspers kindly agreed to give up their training pitch at Hanham and come to Colstons. This was always intended to be a temporary measure. Unfortunately, despite considerable efforts by myself, Tom Bryant and Adam Whitlock to find a suitable alternative pitch for either the men or the ladies, we have not been able to do so this season.

Jaspers made it a condition of a merger that suitable training facilities would be in place and whilst this has not so far been achieved, the committee is optimistic that it will be in time for next season and it is fully committed to making it happen. On that basis, I am absolutely delighted to report that Jaspers have formally agreed for the Clubs to merge.

One further condition required by Jaspers was some retention of their identity and we have agreed that the ladies’ section will be named “Bristol & West Jaspers”, although we will remain affiliated to England Hockey as Bristol & West (the men’s section will be unchanged). Whilst this might seem a simple thing, we had to negotiate with 4 governing bodies before it was finally allowed by the ladies league!

Another activity that some of your Committee has been heavily involved in this year is trying to secure our future at Winterbourne Academy, or if not, some other suitable pitch (AGP). At the start of the year we arranged for Verde Recreo to carry out an assessment of the Winterbourne AGP. They reported that it needed a good clean, lift and repairs to some of the seams (something your chairman might also benefit from). They also pointed out that as it was originally laid in 2002, its days were now numbered. The school refused to pay for the Verde Recreo maintenance work and so the club has donated almost £1000 and the work is now scheduled to be carried out on 18 March. It should make a significant difference, not least because it seems no maintenance has been carried out on the playing surface for at least 2 years.

In December last year we met the commercial, business and facilities managers at Winterbourne School where we gave them a presentation about our club (we think they were a little taken aback by how large we were) and asked them about their plans for the AGP maintenance and resurfacing (estimated cost about £200K). We also pressed for them hard to provide more pitch time for training. That meeting did not produce any immediate results, but a few weeks later we were surprised and delighted to be invited to meet Dave Baker, the CEO of Olympus Academy Trust (OAT) and several of his senior staff, which we did on 6 February. Dave is an impressive character and most importantly, a fellow sportsperson (basketball). We had a very productive and positive meeting and if anyone is interested in a copy of the minutes, let me know.

The upshot is that funding for improved maintenance and the resurfacing of the pitch is being looked at in detail by OAT, as well as various options for providing us with more pitch time. Fingers crossed, they should produce a plan soon and we will have a clearer picture of the future of the AGP and hopefully, our ongoing residency at Winterbourne.

I trust that by now you will have been thoroughly nagged by your team social rep to buy tickets for the Awards Night and indeed might have even bought some. Please make every effort to attend as amongst other things, it will a great opportunity to celebrate two great clubs coming together for what will I’m certain be a very bright future indeed.

With the two clubs merging there will of course be various procedural tasks to complete such as a review of the Constitution etc. This and other matters will need to be ratified at the AGM, the date for which will be announced soon. We have also decided that the merger is a good opportunity to review the governance of the Club to check we are doing everything we should be and have the appropriate procedures, policies risk assessments etc. in place. There is no better way of “kicking the tyres” than by working towards achieving Club Mark, which we hope to make a start on very soon (note: some may recall that some years ago we achieved the now defunct Clubs First accreditation. It would have been a simple matter to convert that to Club Mark had all our documents not been lost when EH changed the Portal - ho hum!).

Finally, according to England Hockey, to be a “Great Club” you must deliver a great “Club Experience” for members. Well as far as I am concerned, that includes providing a decent teas. If there is nothing else that I can take credit for this year, I can at least claim that I worked tirelessly to improve the sausages! After what has been months of negotiations, blind tastings and threats, the Hambrook Club are finally serving us healthy granary bread, good quality tasty sausages and REAL Heinz ketchup! Vegetarian options are also available at the bar. Who’d have thought it would have taken quite so much effort - so enjoy! So, once John Howe has completed his customer care course and is as attentive and loving to us and he is to his barrels of real ale, we will have reached new heights.

Now please enjoy the remaining few games of the season (and good luck to those still fighting for a crucial league position) and I look forward to seeing you at the orange & pink Awards Night.

Andy Bryce

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