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Chairman’s report to the 29th Annual General Meeting on Sunday 16 November 2008

Sunday 16 November 2008, 8.00am

A changing scene

Looking at the name Stoolball England (SE) above probably summarises the last 12 months. It has been a year of change and not a little progress towards becoming better organised and better recognised by the sporting world at large. For some that may seem irrelevant, but for those who want to see stoolball continue as a worthwhile and genuine part of the community, it is essential that we can stand with our heads held high alongside other sports and sporting governing bodies.

Apart from all the work that has gone into taking stoolball into the modern world, changes have come that we would have preferred not to see. The deaths of Rosemary Hobbs, our President, in July last year and Margaret Childs, a former Chairman of Surrey and a Vice-President of Stoolball England, in January of this year, were events that we did not welcome.

Shirley Reed, from Steep Stoolball Club has of course taken over the important role of President and we all benefit from her knowledge, enthusiasm and love of the game as well as her presence at SE meetings. In Surrey, Mandy McGachie has succeeded Gwyn Griffith as Chairman and we look forward to working with her to progress the game in her county. Meanwhile in Kent, Richard Emsley has succeeded Edward Keates as Chairman of the West Kent Ladies League and he too is casting his experienced eye over all that is happening there.

Extraordinary General Meeting in March 2008

It was necessary to call an EGM in March to amend our Constitution to show that Stoolball England (then the National Stoolball Association (NSA)) was operating as a “non-profit making organisation”. This was a requirement of entering the BingoLotto scheme which ran for a short test market period of 6 weeks at the start of this year. It proved a financially worthwhile scheme for Stoolball England and the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) who administered the test market as well as those governing bodies who also signed up to the scheme.

Details of the full launch of BingoLotto are expected very soon and all stoolball clubs will have the opportunity to join as “Bingo Buddies” which will allow them to sell weekly £2 tickets to their members and receive 40p of every ticket sold. For instance, a sale of 50 tickets per week for 52 weeks would yield over £1,000 in a full year, a sum most clubs or leagues would welcome.

Stoolball convention – Wivelsfield Village Hall

Attendance at Stoolball England’s third convention was somewhat disappointing, since it was here that the public announcement that Sport England had officially “recognised” stoolball as a sport was made. In the long history of the game, this was undoubtedly a major turning point in the route to achieving greater publicity. Add to this the fact that stoolball was also included in the National Curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4 for the very first time from September 2008-2011, it was perhaps not surprising that TV, radio stations and the press all wanted to know more about this “strange and ancient” game.

However, despite the small numbers, there were some very interesting topics discussed at this meeting; Stoolball England’s new Club Accreditation Scheme (Kevin Hilliard); CCPR’s fundraising initiative BingoLotto; Stoolball rules and the next revision (led by John Fitzpatrick and Michael Ledwich); Stoolball on the National Curriculum (Melissa Mantle) and the Stoolball England website (Rick Mason, Barbara Fitzpatrick and Pauline Hurley).

Our grateful thanks must also go to Rosemary Newland who catered for the Convention and to Doris Younger, Barbara Fitzpatrick, Daphne Hunt and Shirley Reed whose valued help and assistance contributed to a successful day.

Club Accreditation Scheme

This scheme, which is designed to recognise well organised clubs who play stoolball under the Stoolball England banner was launched at the Convention and whilst, as yet, no club has been awarded accreditation status, we know that there are a number of clubs close to submitting applications.

The requirements are well within the reach of the majority of clubs and it is an important step towards accessing most of the many funding streams which are available through national and county partnership sources. Kevin Hilliard, SE Vice-Chairman, has responsibility for this scheme and will be happy to provide advice and guide you through the Application Form (phone 01403 259617 or email kevin@…).

Capitalising on the curriculum

The appearance of stoolball on the National Curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4 means that it is vital that all clubs build up good relationships with their local schools if we are to see more children playing stoolball in our clubs.

Quite a number of schools already have stoolball equipment (wickets, bats and balls) sitting in their sports cupboards. Just a few of them actually use them and play stoolball, either during curriculum time or as an “after school” club. A far larger number do not use the equipment at all and worse still, do not know what the equipment is for. I ask all clubs to do their utmost to make contact with their local secondary schools to establish the credential for stoolball and start the rebirth of our game. If help is needed we will do our utmost to provide it for you.

Starting them early – test market

One of the aims in Stoolball England’s 5 year plan is that we actively encourage children between the ages of 7-11 to start playing stoolball at their primary and junior schools. We believe that this will then help to start feeding into secondary schools, children who have already acquired a taste for the game.

We are in the process of setting up a test market in the Horsham area where the plan is to offer coaching to a number of primary and junior schools, either during curriculum time or as an “after school” club, during the Summer term of 2009. One of the conditions of this coaching development scheme is that the schools’ headteachers will be asked to enter a team or teams (both boys and girls) in an end of term competition where certificates and awards will be presented.

Stoolball England has been very fortunate to have two volunteers who are prepared to deliver this programme of stoolball coaching development in primary and junior schools which will start just as soon as their training needs have been met. It is fortunate that they already have enhanced CRB checks through their local school, but they will be attending a Safeguarding Children course, a First Aid course and a stoolball Level 1 course in the near future.

An application for funding this and further programmes is being drawn up in conjunction with the Sports Development Staff from Horsham District Council. We are looking for more volunteers, so if you would like to be involved in any future initiatives in your area, please let us know at 01403 252419.

Stoolball competitions in schools

Stoolball England’s work with the County Sports Partnership and attendance at their meetings has brought us considerable help and guidance, particularly from within Sussex with the newly established “Schools Competitions” organisation. Here, useful discussions have taken place with local managers to recognise existing school competitions and to work towards creating more. All this activity bodes well for the future of our game.

Application for recognition of stoolball’s governing body

Apart from possible concerns about the structure of our membership criteria and our relationship with the development of stoolball in India, progress with our “recognition” application to Sport England appeared to be progressing satisfactorily. However, at a comparatively late stage we were advised by Sport England that the title of “National Stoolball Association” would not be acceptable to the Sports Councils of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland since competitive stoolball was only played in England.

As much as it hurt, it was clear that a change of name was required if we were to achieve recognition as a governing body. The title of “Stoolball England” was approved at the EGM held at Wivelsfield on 28 September 2008.

As a result, our entire application amounting to four large ring binders of information and supporting documents has been amended and is almost ready for resubmission to Sport England. This has been a long and time consuming exercise but we believe a successful outcome will begin to establish our credentials at the right level of the sporting hierarchy.

Website, logo and leaflet

In the light of the issues relating to the name of the governing body of stoolball, much of the work which was at an advanced state, in relation to our logo and promotional leaflet, has had to be put on hold. However we are working hard on both areas and aim to have the finished articles produced as soon as possible. The work in these areas by Kevin Hilliard, Rick Mason and Barbara Fitzpatrick has been thorough and much appreciated.

Supporting stoolball in India

We have continued to give support, advice and encouragement to our friends in Akola in Maharastra State, India and are awaiting actual photos of the game being played there. So far, nine states have joined the Indian Stoolball Federation and there appears to be great enthusiasm to come to England to play competitively here.

CCPR Annual General Meeting at St James’ Palace

Stoolball England were able to attend the CCPR AGM at St James’ Palace in July and were delighted to have the opportunity to discuss stoolball with HRH Prince Philip. It was a most impressive occasion which does much to enhance the standing of the CCPR who have been a great help to Stoolball England over the years.

Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) AGM in London

Stoolball England were invited guests to the SABR AGM in Clerkenwell in June where they were able to view the UK premiere of the documentary film entitled “Baseball Discovered” which was shot during the summer of 2007 and featured stoolball, rounders, cricket and bat and trap. The world premiere later that month in America achieved considerable acclaim and many awards for Sam Marchiano, the producer.

It was interesting that the film comprehensively concluded that stoolball, taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers, was the pro-genitor of the game of baseball.

International exhibitions 2010

Stoolball England was very fortunate to meet up with Beth Hise who lives in Australia and will be organising exhibitions of cricket and baseball memorabilia in 2010 beginning in London (Lord’s Cricket Ground), then on to Australia (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and finally America (Cooperstown). She made a presentation at the SABR AGM in London and gladly accepted the offer to feature stoolball memorabilia alongside the cricket and baseball material.

W W Grantham’s grandson, David, who lives in New Zealand has agreed to loan one of his grandfather’s smocks and we are hoping to borrow a painting of stoolball being played at Shere circa 1860. Bats, balls and scorebooks will also be featured, together with some of Grantham’s bats which were made by ship’s carpenters during the cruises he made between 1928 and 1938. Currently these bats are being held in museums in Chailey and Lewes.

Anybody who would be prepared to loan any similar material should contact Stoolball England on 01403 252419.

Peter Cheesman, our treasurer, is retiring

It is with not a little sadness that I must place on record our sincere thanks to Peter Cheesman who retires after 21 years of loyal and honest service to Stoolball England. Peter migrated 40 years ago from North Holmwood in Surrey to Roffey, near Horsham. Although his first sporting love has always been cricket, he has happily taken under his wing all the worries of looking after and accounting for Stoolball England’s financial affairs. Peter has never sought the limelight, diligently attending to the detail and the accuracy of accounts that the Treasurer’s job demands.

Peter has travelled far and wide in support of England’s cricket when he has been able to find time away from his duties of Trustee, President and Umpire at Roffey Cricket Club. Conscientious to the very end, Peter identified for us his successor whom we shall be happy to welcome into the Stoolball England fold.

We thank Peter for his long and committed period of work with Stoolball England and wish him every happiness in his retirement from stoolball with his wife Sue, and many years of watching Sussex at Hove, Horsham and Arundel.

Insurance and rules revision

These are the two areas for which Michael Ledwich has been responsible and I thank him for the very professional way that he has handled this work. Insurance cover provided through our brokers always seemed to produce unnecessary complications in the past but slowly it seems we are now all working in the same direction.

Our second Rules Review programme was conducted under Michael’s guidance recently and the main thrust has centred on providing better clarification on the meaning of the rules.

It is very clear from my own observations and those attending the meeting that there are still large numbers of players and spectators who have never actually read the printed word in the Rule Book, but nevertheless claim total knowledge. This is fairly typical of sports players in general but we shall be trying hard to ensure that there will now be less room for ambiguity in the interpretation of the rules of the game.

My thanks to everybody who contributed to this revision.

Another mixed bag of weather

The predictions of global warming and even hotter summers failed to materialise for the second successive year. In the main, 2008 had few redeeming features and once again produced a season of postponements, abandoned tournaments and uncertain playing conditions. A couple of vaguely warm and sunny weeks mid season and again in September was a small reward for an otherwise forgettable playing season. Memorable, but certainly not welcome, was the game in which I was officiating which ended on health and safety grounds due to a most dramatic display of lightning and thunder with an ever blackening sky. Dramatic but totally unsatisfactory.

Your management committee – my thanks

In my report last year, I spoke of Stoolball England taking on more projects than ever before, but this year has moved us on to another level.

On the coaching front, Melissa Mantle successfully piloted 42 students through Stoolball England’s Level 1 Coaching course. This is the highest number ever and one which takes our total number of coaches to the 300 mark – a tremendous achievement. In addition, Melissa and Connie Chapman have produced a first class set of Year 7 lesson plans in support of stoolball now being officially included in the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3. These lesson plans are available to all secondary schools and will be electronically transmitted to as many schools as possible.

Work is also well advanced on the production of an illustrated Coaching Manual. This document and the Year 7 lesson plans are time consuming and demanding projects that do much to enhance the standing of our game. My sincere thanks and congratulations go to both Melissa and Connie for all their magnificent work.

Stoolball England has been very active this year selling a wide range of stoolball equipment, from bats and balls through to DVDs, scorebooks and boundary markers, and my thanks to our local sales agents Barbara Fitzpatrick and Toni Wheatley (Sussex), Sally Morris (Mixed Stoolball), Shirley Reed (Wessex Friendly Group), Julie Oliver (Surrey) and Jenny Keates (Kent), who have done so much to make clubs and players aware of the availability of our equipment.

As you may know, we have provided equipment on a loan basis to half a dozen schools in the South East this season, as well as a YMCA summer camp in Cumbria. The generosity of many clubs in donating old stoolball bats in exchange for a new ball has put us in a strong position to meet these requests. My thanks to everybody who has contributed to this scheme, especially Keith Younger who spent many hours beautifully refurbishing the bats so that they were safe in every respect for young children to play with.

Our work with the Indian Stoolball Federation has kept us very busy and very much on our toes to keep abreast of the regular stream of emails calling for guidance.

A quick check on my fingers tells me that since the last AGM Stoolball England have organised 10 Management Committee and General Meetings, 2 Extraordinary General Meetings, a Convention and a Rules Revision meeting. They have also attended 5 CCPR meetings in London, including an AGM, two BingoLotto brainstorming sessions and a meeting at Southampton Row with Sport England. They have also been present at 3 Sussex County Sports Partnership meetings and one Rix & Kay Conference organised by SCSP.

Following the “recognition” of stoolball, there were 4 radio interviews, three appearances on TV and a pretty large coverage in over 30 local and national newspapers and two national websites – all that seems such a long time ago now.

As I write these notes, an email has just come through with the heading “Stoolball for Japanese TV” and three requests:

  • Is there a stoolball museum?
  • Can our presenter join in a mixed game?
  • Can we borrow a coaching DVD?

That just about says it all – the word stoolball is spreading and we can live with the demands and publicity that goes with the impact we are making. It’s very exciting, you are all part of a wonderful sport and please jump on the wagon now and enjoy the exhilaration and infectious mood that enthusiasm can bring.

Nearly forgot – my thanks to Kay who has been at the very heart of so much that has been happening. What would I do without her?

The nights are closing in, enjoy your winter and don’t forget the indoor stoolball. It helps to keep you trim, gets your “eye in” for next summer and is a brilliant arena to bring on your younger players.

Enjoy your winter break and all the very best for 2009.

John Price
Chairman 31 October 2008
Stoolball England

Tags: meetings