Council met twice during the year, in October and March; the December meeting was cancelled due to lack of business. This reflects the fact that most decisions are now delegated to committees, but concern about this and the workload of chairmen who also sit on the Management Committee has resulted in a working party to review the three-tier structure introduced in 1999.
The President, John Solomon, is retiring at the start of this AGM and a dinner has been organised to thank him for his long service. Bernard Neal has been nominated as his successor. The Secretary, Nigel Graves, has also indicated his wish to retire and the opportunity is being taken to review the role of this post.
Individual membership is essentially static, but eleven clubs have (re-)joined the CA to obtain the benefit of the Civil Liability Insurance scheme that was introduced this year. Individual subscription rates are to be slightly increased.
The strategic plan drafted last year was adopted. Terms of reference for the Major Grants Committee and Investment Sub-Committee were approved.
Packaged membership administration systems are being investigated to replace the current bespoke database, to meet the needs of the office, shop, website, Treasurer and membership.
A workshop on sextuple peeling was run following the introduction of the platinum award for this feat.
The grant application form is being revised and procedures for considering applications streamlined. Grants have been made to Medway, Pendle and Ramsgate clubs and the South and South-West federations. Information about Sportsmatch has been circulated but no applications have yet been made.
Balls from three suppliers have been tested for approval and their colours measured. Further investigations have been made into the playing characteristics of hoops and encouragement given for the production of a new cast-iron hoop. Advice is being given on the construction of a proposed artificial court, using the experience gained at Bury St. Edmunds.
The Open Championship was this year subsumed into the 6th World Golf Croquet Championship and successfully run at Southwick June 20-27th for the World Croquet Federation. Sponsorship by M G M Assurance, Bellingham Wines and others, the provision of facilities by the Sussex County and Compton clubs and the assistance given by members of these clubs and other clubs in the neighbourhood is gratefully acknowledged.
Clubs report increased membership of Golf Croquet players and the Grass Roots and CentreStage competitions were relaunched. Standards of play have improved at the top level, a coaching course run and a number of new referees trained. We continue to be heavily involved in the WCF Rules revision, with the aim of ensuring that the result is suitable for club as well as championship play; meanwhile, the CA's interim Laws were revised to track this process.
The operation of the revised guidelines issued last year is being monitored.
We successfully defended the MacRobertson Shield and the Solomon Trophy, played at Heaton Park, but cannot rest on our laurels. Plans are well under way to host the Association Croquet World Championship at Cheltenham and other clubs next August, taking into account experience gained from the Golf Croquet one this year.
An examiner's handbook is in its final revision, with the intention of making some of the material available online. Additional Examiners have been appointed.
A significant amount of sponsorship has been achieved, both by the Committee and various enthusiastic groups and individuals around the country. Apart from the World Championships, Bellingham Wines were the principal sponsor, donating prizes for several events, holding wine tastings and wine for sale by clubs.
Several promotional leaflets and posters were published and the profile of the game raised through increased PR activity, resulting in significant TV, Radio and press coverage.
Commercial sales are at an all-time high.
The Gazette has reached its centenary and the results of a readership survey are being analysed; publication has changed to even-numbered months.
The web site continues to be developed, with an interactive fixtures calendar, but facilities for on-line entry and payment would require serious consideration. Advice for Clubs and the Basic Laws have also been added. A compendium of many variations of Croquet has been written by Don Gaunt.
In general, CA tournaments are being well supported, but the entry to the Women's Championship and Mixed Doubles (held separately for the first time) was poor and there were insufficient entries to hold either of the Ladies
Invitation events. Qualification for the Inter Counties is being reviewed to encourage the optimum number of 22 teams whilst ensuring that players have a close allegiance to the county they are representing.