Report of AGM and Council Meeting
John Bowcott gave the report from Council to the AGM, starting with the governance changes that would see the Council replaced by a considerably smaller one of just 12 voting members as from the end of the meeting. The Council will focus on 'high-level' policy and strategic initiatives whilst delegating the running of the game to an Executive board, whose delivery, through its committees, it will scrutinise. He emphasised that structures can only go so far and that the outcome will depend on the people who volunteer to fill them: responsiveness, consultation and transparency will be key to success. Members with issues to raise can help the structure work well by doing so with the right person initially, only escalating them if necessary.
He moved on to review successes both in play, such as the victories over the USA in the Solomon Trophy and in the first test match against Spain, and in organising the championships and many other tournaments that had been run throughout the season.
The introduction of live streaming and our presence at a second Countryfile Live event had both helped raise the profile of the sport. Much had also been done behind the scenes, though a number of challenges remained.
He concluded by thanking the many people who had contributed so generously to these activities and for the support he had received, not least from the President.
Jonathan Isaacs then gave a report from the Governance Changes Implementation Group, which he had chaired, about the transitional arrangements that had been made to give the new Council a flying start.
From the floor, Stephen Mulliner suggested that we should seek advice from other croquet governing bodies that had restructured in recent years and Hugh Carlisle raised the shortage of referees at all levels. Bill Arliss welcomed the new structure but felt that it lacked objectives: the general feeling was that it must be given space to set them and that the proof of the pudding would be in the eating. Tony Salem queried the lack of choice after winning the toss in golf croquet and John Reddish announced that National Croquet Day would be extended to a week next year, from 11th -17th May.
The President wound up this item by thanking John for his exceptionally busy year in office and the retiring members of Council for the hundreds of years that they collectively served the Association.
Peter Death reported that the 2018 accounts had shown a significant deficit, of £15K, even after a transfer from the Development Fund to meet the costs of employing a National Development Officer. Commercial income had been unexpectedly poor and sending paper copies of the Croquet Gazette to Standard Members had been costly. Both these were being addressed, though Tony Salem expressed surprise and concern about the former. It was too early to predict the outcome for this year and 2020 would be the last year of above-inflation increases in subscriptions from clubs.
Peter then gave notice of his intention to retire, due to failing eyesight, but hoped to be able to continue long enough to give a good hand-over to his successor. He was warmly thanked for his work and re-elected for a final time, along with the Independent Examiner, David Boxell.
Presentations then followed, with Daniel Gott receving the Apps Memorial Bowl and Stuart M. Smith the Spiers Trophy. Lilian Holdsworth accepted the Millennium Award on behalf of the Littlehampton Club, and Stephen Mulliner the magnificant Beddow Cup on behalf of Surbiton, which had won the AC Inter-Club competition for the fourth year in succession. Diplomas were awarded in person to Chris Roberts, Simon Hathrell, Tony Thomas and John Wallace, and will be sent for later presentation to 14 recipients. Dave Kibble was awarded the Council Medal for his many years of work developing the website.
In AOB, Hugh Carlisle requested sponsorship for the AC World Championships to be hosted here in 2022, and Stephen Mulliner was told that it was hoped to publish the successor to Wylie's book before the end of the year.
In his closing remarks, Quiller Barrett noted the tremendous amount of voluntary work done in clubs, the importance of communicating best practice by them, and wished the new Council well.
The formal business needed at the first meeting of the new Council was conducted expeditiously, being uncontested thanks to extensive consultations beforehand. Jonathan Isaacs was elected to chair it, with Patricia Duke-Cox as vice-chairman. Roger Staples will chair an Executive Board with John Bowcott, Eugene Chang, Tim King and Beatrice McGlen as its other elected members, and Peter Death, Mark Suter and Ian Vincent as ex-officio ones. A new set of standing orders and practice book were adopted on a temporary basis, which stripped out much of the formality required for larger meetings and introduced procedures for more extensive decision taking between physical meetings.
This freed up the bulk of the time for a brainstorming session facilitated by Rich Waterman, to start the process of setting the CA's strategy and objectives, following a method advocated by Simon Sinek. This starts by asking Why? the organisation exists and its motivation for action, followed in broad terms by How? it is to achieve that and What? specific initiatives actions are needed to do so. Many ideas had already been contributed on a Trello software board (think electronic post-it notes), which had been arranged into logical grouping by Rich.
Those for Why? were categorised into three groups labelled emotional, outcome and role. After discussing these, we agreed that our overall aim would be "To get more people playing more croquet in more places, by promoting, developing and administering the sport", having decided that "better" was a subsidiary objective to "more" croquet.
We then moved onto the Hows? and found that they largely, but not exclusively, mapped on to the existing committee structure. Ones that didn't included Recruitment and Retention, Communication. Membership Management and Fundraising. Communication was felt to be a key one, both to and from individual members, clubs, federations and CA committees. It was left that each of the Hows? would be examined in more detail outside the meeting, to agree the specific objectives in each area.
Committees themselves are to be encouraged to engage in a similar process, but it is recognised that autumn meetings will generally not have time for that.
Breaking to complete the agenda, Brian Havill offered to write a paper addressing the question of the legal structure of the Association and a sub-group was set up to make policy recommendations to address the shortage of referees, which was raised at the AGM.
A final session considered the metrics that would be needed to assess progress in meeting our objectives, but with the warning that it was all too easy to focus on what could be measured rather than more valuable, but less tangible, goals.