Membership packs are now in the post. Including in the pack is our May newsletter detailing all the latest news at the club as we start the new season, including the securing of a new main sponsor, REPL Group.

You can download the May newsletter here and you can read on for thoughts from Steve Cootes our Chairman.

I hope you have all wintered well and are ready for a great summer of cricket. These are exciting times for the Club as we look to build upon last year’s successes, on and off the pitch.

While the 1st XI narrowly missed out on promotion (by a mere 6 points!), the 2nd XI, led by Richard Sykes, won their final game and were promoted as Champions. They will play in Division One of the 2nd XI leagues this year along with Walsall, Shrewsbury and Old Hill, to name just three of the high quality clubs we’ll be competing with this summer. The Bards consolidated their position in Cotswold Hills Division 5 last season, and the junior section of the Club enjoyed its fair share of successes, heightened by the fact that they were once again able to play many of their matches at Swans Nest Lane.

The Committee were happy to report a ‘balanced budget’ in 2014, delivering a fully accounted surplus on the financial year to end-September, and we are well on target to achieve the same this year. Of course, as a ‘charitable’ organisation we are significantly reliant on the generosity and support of members and local businesses, generating sufficient income to accommodate vital activities like grounds maintenance and provision of training and playing equipment. To meet this recurring financial challenge a significant increase in sponsorship income is a key objective for 2015. Thanks in no small part to John Shurie, our new Director of Senior Cricket, who joins the Committee to oversee the Club’s commercial and marketing activities, we have secured REPL Group as our new main sponsor. Their generosity and support is very much appreciated.

While overall membership numbers remained broadly in line with the previous year (up 5% to 160), we saw a very healthy increase in playing membership last year (up 21%), driven primarily by a 65% growth in senior membership. We will be working hard in the coming months to grow membership in all categories, not least in the all-important Vice Presidents section where we have seen a decline in recent times. On the playing side, we are delighted that Andy Flower has once again committed to coaching the senior teams. This naturally provides a huge boost to the Club, and a tremendous opportunity for players to learn from one of the most successful international players and coaches of the modern era.

Player recruitment has also been active during the close season. Following on from the success of last year’s overseas player from South Africa, top run scorer Abel Mokhuane, we are thrilled to welcome Ben Cooper as our overseas player for 2015. At 23, Ben is a rising talent in his home country of Australia, and a current Netherlands international. Ben arrived at the beginning of last month and has already shown what he’s capable of by hittng 116 off 43 balls against Warwick University. Understandably we have high hopes for what he will bring as a player and a coach.

One of the most rewarding things we’ve seen over the last 12 months has been the commitment of players, members and friends of the Club to the ‘social scene’. My passion for sport has always extended beyond what happens on the pitch and training ground, to the wonderful friendships that can be formed off the pitch. A healthy club ‘works hard and plays hard’; we all do what we do for pleasure, after all. You will see in the fixture book that a number of dates have been set for social events and get togethers. I hope that all members of the Club will be familiar faces at Swans Nest Lane this spring and summer.

Finally, and very importantly, I’d like thank my fellow Committee members and all those who voluntarily give their time, insight, expertise and financial support to the Club. Simply put, without you we wouldn’t have a club! We can never have too much support, of course, so if you’re not involved today and feel you can lend a hand in any way, be it providing administrative support to your son’s team, or helping out with the endless grounds keeping jobs at Swans Nest Lane and Alscot Park, please get in touch.

Have a great summer and hope to see you at the Club!

Best Wishes

Steve Cootes, Chairman
Stratford-upon-Avon Cricket Club