Chairman’s New Year Message
As 2020 has drawn to a close and we start the new year I thought it timely to provide a little update on TWRFC.
It has been a challenging year for the club with virtually no senior rugby to talk of and an interrupted and rather constrained Colts/Youth/Ladies/Mini’s rugby. Despite the adversity I’m pleased to share that TWRFC is thriving.
One of our key purposes at TWRFC is to be a centre of sporting excellence in Tunbridge Wells for all players at whatever level they are able to compete, our ability to do this has been heavily constrained throughout 2020 by both the Government and RFU guidelines. During this year our focus has inevitably shifted to maintaining a Covid-safe environment for our members, retaining our strong club-community and safeguarding the financial future of the club through these difficult times.
In-spite of the challenging environment, we have kept the Youth/Ladies/Mini’s active at times when they have really needed it. I would like to recognise and thank all the coaches and volunteers who have worked so hard to deliver the maximum programme of rugby permitted within the constraints. Whilst I’m sure all of us in the rugby community had appetite for more, it was still great to be able to offer the rugby we did, and the positive feedback and support we received across the club was much appreciated. I’d also like to thank Martin for keeping us on the straight and narrow as regards the ever-changing and indecipherable Covid requirements. To call out a few highlights from the youth section:
- We have record numbers of family/youth members (over 650 youth players)
- Out U6’s hit a new record for membership, breaking through the 125 mark for an age group
- The Ladies numbers have risen yet again with all teams playing great rugby and enjoying the game. It’s particularly pleasing to see the advent of the Under 11s section which looks set to improve the pipeline of players into the older Ladies age-groups.
- The Academy are back to full strength and challenging at the right levels. Even making a final… that was never played!
- We also got the Kiwi camp away which gave lots of kids a fantastic outlet in the summer.
Prior to the pandemic, the first XV played some fantastic exciting attacking rugby resulting in a healthy (above Sevenoaks) finish to the 2019/20 season. They have established themselves fully in L&SE premier and I know they are now keen to push on and challenge themselves for promotion. Looking forward, Simon Whatling has been joined by Dave Marshall as our new DoR and Ben Kayser as our new forward’s coach. We have the best coaching team in the area and these guys should be a magnet to new members. Not sure Ben will thank me for the photo I used! We don’t really know what the rest of the season holds, hopefully the first XV will take part in a friendly local tournament with teams like Sevenoaks, Westcombe Park, Dorking etc. Which would be an excellent opportunity to get behind your club and enjoy a celebratory atmosphere. I am optimistic that the rest of our senior rugby and academy will ‘hopefully’ get going soon and get some rugby under their (ever growing) belts.
Importantly we have also kept a very keen eye on our finances. Our income has been severely impacted by the pandemic: Many of our sponsors are themselves under pressure, and I’d very much like to thank those who continue to support the club in these difficult times, Inevitably a few were unable to continue to support the club to the extent they had done previously. We also had to cancel all our usual fun (and fundraising) events; and have seen the bar sales reduced to nil. Typically, sponsorship, bar and events would account for roughly 2/3rds of our revenue. We have sought to replace as much of the lost revenue as we could, though new sources (puppy clubs, fitness clubs, school rentals etc. even a football academy), maximising the revenue opportunities afforded by the café (Thanks to Martha and crew). We were also able to secure a couple of grants and take advantage of VAT reduction and deferment schemes. We have managed to significantly reduce our costs. Expenditure has been watched by everybody like a hawk to ensure we are as lean as possible.
Typically, membership subscriptions account for the remaining ~third of our revenue. This season we encouraged membership to be paid early and in full where possible, and helped by the switch to Spond, 65% of membership subscriptions were paid prior to the start of the season. There are still a small number of members who could help us here…. We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity in donating funds from cancelled tours, cancelled youth balls and supporting the club in many other ways. Thank you everyone, for working hard to achieve the above. I am delighted to say despite the unusual circumstances we are in good financial health and have clear visibility of cash to see us through to next season. Special thanks as always to Don Bailey for taking on the extra work requires to afford us month-to-month forecasting.
Off the pitch, we have secured new volunteers who are doing ever broader roles for the club. Our press and marketing group in particular has grown fantastically. Thank you for some amazing articles, great coverage, good sponsor interaction and of course those fun videos. Our members also engaged in helping the locally community, and collectively raised £6,000 for Nourish and Hospice in the Weald, through the 6-nations challenge; and the U13s race between kids/parents to Rome.
Looking towards St. Mark – during 2020 we invested in the clubhouse and grounds: new PA system outside, new sound system inside, new Café, new decking and gazebo (see photo). We have kept up progress of our 3G planning application (thanks to Richard Bains). The club is progressing our development plans and with our planning consultation back (and positive) we have created a new Development committee under the leadership of Steve Daly to progress our ambitions here. If you have time to help, then do let Steve know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Moving into 2021, all sections will continue to deliver as much rugby as the Government and RFU allow us to. We know how important this is and we can’t wait to get some fixtures delivered too. As soon as circumstances permit; we also hope to be able to gather our membership and enable some very much needed and valued social interaction. Can’t wait to get that club room open when it is safe to do so, and enjoy a pint with friends.
And with that thought of a pint with friends I wish you all a Happy New Year. Let it bring health, happiness and lots of rugby!