The Annual General Meeting of the Association was held in the dining room at Hurlingham, which, although darker than the usual terrace room, also had a large mirror as a trap for unwary photographers! As usual, it was ably chaired by the President, Quiller Barrett.
Council's report had been published on the website and was presented by its Vice-Chairman, Brian Shorney, as Tim King was away on business in the USA. Jeff Dawson, the Chairman of the Implementation Group for the Membership Changes agreed at the SGM earlier in the year, was asked by Quiller to give a progress report, as a number of members had asked him about it while visiting clubs during the year. Jeff said that three working groups, one for the Gazette, one for ICT issues and one for constitutional and communication ones, had been established and had started work. However, the changes would not come into effect until 2017 at the earliest, due to the need to upgrade or replace our membership database system before they could do so.
The other topic of interest was the Golf Croquet Handicapping trial that had taken place in East Anglia this year. Strat Liddiard, the Chairman of the Handicap Committee, reported that it seemed to have been well received, but the data had yet to be analysed. Bill Arliss commented that the current system of effective handicaps had improved on the previous situation and was working well in other Federations.
The report had ended with a list of inspiring individuals who have made significant contributions to croquet but had died during the year, including John Solomon, Donald Cornelius, Paul Macdonald, Christine Irwin and Chris Hudson. Chris Williams asked that Dab Wheeler should be added to the list.
In giving his first report on the accounts as Hon. Treasurer, Peter Death thanked his predecessor, Roger Bray, for giving him a flying start; Marian Hemsted, the Reporting Accountant; and Liz Larsson and her team in the office for all their help. There were no significant unexpected variations from the norm, though meeting expenses, which had risen by £3.6K rather than the £2.6K stated in the report, had been partly inflated by an exceptional meeting of Council.
Neither Ian Anderson (Woking) nor John-Paul Moberly (Croquet Durham) were able to come to receive the Apps Memorial Bowl and Spiers Trophy, for the most improved AC and GC players respectively, but Janet Hoptroff (Sussex County) was presented with the Coach of the Year award. A lifetime coaching award is to be presented to Peter Dyke (Nailsea). Representatives of High Wycombe, Camerton and Peasdown and Budleigh Salterton received their club awards and Swindon will receive theirs in due course. Diplomas were awarded to Russell Barter (Cheltenham), David Haslam (Colchester), Bernard Jones (Woking), Paul Pristavec (Dyffryn) Stephen Read (Fowey) Richard Sanville (Ashby), Chris Sheen (Colchester) and Fred Smith (Church Stretton) and I was presented with the Council Medal.
In closing the meeting, the President noted the lawn improvements he had seen at several clubs and his pleasure at seeing the enthusiasm of the players in the Schools Championship. He urged Council to co-opt some new blood onto its committees and appoint an International Performance Director for Golf Croquet.
Although many useful conversations took place over lunch, in hindsight the afternoon Council meeting should have started earlier, given that there were some controversial items on the agenda that had arisen after the last meeting of the Management Committee.
Chris Jackson was welcomed as the representative of the East Midlands Federation and it, along with the other eight Federations, were accepted into membership, following the changes agreed at the 2014 AGM. Dave Kibble was elected to chair the Coaching Committee, Martin French GC Selection, David Maugham ICT, and Richard Hoskyns Investment; the other chairmen remain unchanged. Keith Aiton, Ian Burridge, Dave Kibble, Ian Lines and David Maugham were appointed to select the team for the 2017 MacRobertson Shield, with the latter as chairman.
A proposal to put forward an amendment to the constitution to give voting rights to up to 30 members of a school or university club aged 16 or over when the new membership arrangements come into effect was quickly agreed, but the question of whether the CA should provide a dispute resolution mechanism for clubs took more consideration. It was agreed that Federations should be asked to assist in the first instance, with the CA as a backstop.
It was a proposed policy for the inclusion of coaching courses in the fixtures book that was most contentious, given the apparently conflicting aims of providing coaching in locations convenient for the players wanting it whilst maintaining quality standards. An amended version of the proposed policy was eventually agreed as an interim measure for the edition currently being prepared for the 2016 season, with the coaching committee given authority to review entries in it, and the matter was referred back to it to propose a policy for the longer term.
A proposal for a National Croquet Day was up next. There was a general view that the proposed date of 23rd April was too early in the year, and Sunday 5th June 2016 was chosen instead. As time was getting short, the details were referred back to the Marketing Committee to re-consider in the light of comments made about the proposal, in particular about focussing on attracting people interested in competitive play.
As the staff were waiting to re-arranged the tables for the evening function (rather than members wishing to watch the rugby!), discussion of a paper about assisting players with colour vision deficiencies had to be deferred, but it was hastily agreed to delegate authority to contract for an upgraded or replacement membership database system to the Management Committee.