Chair’s Report 19/20 Season
I don’t think any of us thought this is how we would be ending the 19/20 season, but I’m glad we can still come together in some way to reflect on the club’s achievements this season.
Having invested in coaching last year and re-secured our place as a National League club, we had a bit of a need for more income. Burnie’s days of huge JLL sponsorship were sadly behind us, and the club’s purse was feeling the lack of the Cape. That’s why this season we put a huge focus on the finances. As we continue to be an ambitious club and hope to get more teams into the National League, we had to consider how we could generate more revenue from diverse sources so that we keep hockey as affordable as possible for you.
With strides already being made towards this by the Sponsorship & Fundraising committee, we opened this up by giving all members the opportunity to take sponsorship into their own hands and find kit sponsorship. I’ve been so impressed with what you’ve achieved. We’ve had an unprecedented level of sponsorship this season with a huge number of different partnerships – from Simon Wright Jewellery to Peoplewise to Gympass to the Canary Wharf Group. We’ve opened the door to so many new partnerships that I hope will continue and expand well beyond this season.
With all of this positivity about the finances, it would be remiss of me not to mention the City and Wharf Hockey League. As many of you will be aware, this makes up a significant amount of the club’s annual income and enables us to keep membership subscriptions at an affordable level. Whilst we hope we will be able to run this league in the later summer months, we have to be prepared for the eventuality that this won’t be possible. With that in mind, we are actively working on contingency plans including applying for a Sport England fund for clubs impacted by coronavirus and seeking out other grants. We are a resilient club and the impressive work Dan Chamberlain has done this season as Treasurer means we are in a strong position to face this possible hit. I’m confident that we will find a solution that doesn’t have a negative impact on next year.
Even though this season was cut short, Wapping has still had a successful time on pitch. I’ll let Dom and Lotta go into the details but three promotions and just one relegation is a very strong effort. I know tough decisions had to be made by the leagues on how to determine promotions, and I feel for our teams who unfortunately were on the wrong end of those decisions and narrowly missed out on promotions. My view is we take these decisions graciously and we show them on the pitch next season by coming back even stronger.
Off the pitch, we’ve been focussing on development for members. We held a Level 1 umpiring course organised by the Umpire Development Officers Dan Carter and Adam Haines, a coaching course with England Hockey organised by Dom Oliver which unfortunately had to be postponed but will happen eventually. We also developed the Kidds section by introducing an additional weekly training session and a pathway into the adult league teams for the first time in the club’s history. I’ll leave it to Sandy to go into the details on this in the Community report, but a big thank you to those teams who have welcomed Wapping Kidds into your match day.
From one generation to the next, we have also continued to engage with our alumni community. After the amazing 30th anniversary dinner held last season, we have this year launched the 1989 Club and a regular alumni-specific newsletter to maintain that connection. We have a plan to hold annual alumni events and this year hosted an alumni game on the stadium pitch at Lee Valley. We received great feedback from the alumni and over time I think this community will grow into a key supporter of the club.
For you our current members we have established a new way of communicating with the introduction of The Back Post, Wapping’s weekly newsletter. Huge thanks to Emily Wilford who has made that a success. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you on a regular basis and I hope that this will keep developing next season. I’d love to see more input from members about what you’re up to in your teams and shout-outs of successes.
Our other communication channels are also going from strength to strength with our Instagram account breaking the one thousand followers mark. Congrats on this to Jon Lowe, our Press Sec. Additionally, a record 15 teams have their own Instagram accounts. It was great to see what you were doing during the season, but it’s been especially heart-warming seeing how you are still coming together as teams during this crisis.
Looking ahead to the summer presents an uncertain picture. I cannot guarantee that we will be able to run Back to Hockey or the summer league, but what I can say is we will make every effort to ensure the 19/20 season gets its ending. We are still very much hoping we will be able to run an event. Given the possible loss of summer league income we are considering alternative formats, for example an awards drinks reception. This would be cheaper for you as well as the club and still be an exciting way to celebrate the season and announce our 19/20 award-winners. More on that to follow in the coming weeks.
I want to say how grateful I am to everyone who has put something into the club this season – be that volunteering with the Kidds, leading your team as captain, or taking on a committee role. I doubt you hear ‘Thank you’ enough for your efforts, but I hope you know that it is really appreciated and it is people like you who keep the club going. I also think the AGM is a perfect time to say a particular thank-you to the Exec who have put in so much time behind the scenes to enable the club’s success. I don’t think people can imagine quite how many decisions are made and fires put out on a weekly basis, so thank you to Vice Chair – Community Sandy Akinbolu, Vice Chairs – Performance Dom Oliver and Lotta Paulus, Ladies’ and Men’s Club Captains Sophie Tomkinson and Tom Sibley, Secretary Jenny Skelding, Treasurer Dan Chamberlain and Fixtures Secretaries Cerys Jenkins and Tash Verspyck. I couldn’t have asked for a more talented, resilient leadership team for the club.
There is so much talent in this club, on and off the pitch, and with elections coming up I encourage you to think how you can use your talents to support the club. From my three seasons on Exec I can definitely say it’s a great way to meet people from different teams and gain valuable skills which are relevant to the world of work as well. I would encourage all of you to think whether there is a role where you might be able to help the club and also find an opportunity to develop yourself.
This will be my one season as Chair, having served as Secretary for two seasons before this. It’s been a real privilege to lead the club and I think I can safely say the 19/20 season has been memorable for us all.