Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the AGM took place virtually this year, using a Zoom teleconference streamed on YouTube. Those wishing to speak were asked to register for the Zoom link and voting took place electronically beforehand. Linda Shaw expressed disappointment that a way had not been found to enable voting to take place during the meeting. She was told that a cautious approach, using relatively familiar technology, had been adopted first time round, but that arrangements would be reviewed should virtual meetings be needed, or wanted, again. There had already been a proposal to make physical meetings more representative by avoiding votes at the meeting itself.
The President, Quiller Barrett, opened the meeting punctually at 10 am, from his home in Hertfordshire, and apologised in advance should any technological hoops be blobbed. In the event, it all went relatively smoothly, with Eugene Chang and Mark Suter at the controls. There were 17 people (and one club) on the Zoom call and just over 100 watching the stream.
Tony Salem, in absentia, had given notice that he wished to again raise the issue of the toss in Golf Croquet Doubles. Roger Staples, the Chairman of the Executive Board, replied that the CA's Golf Croquet Rules Committee had considered the matter, recommended against make a local ruling, but agreed to raise it during the next WCF review. Stephen Mulliner, its Chairman, confirmed that and said that a consultation draft was expected towards the end of next year.
Jonathan Isaacs then gave Council's Annual report, which had been published in advance on the website. To say that it had been an unusual year was an understatement, with a new Council following the governance changes compounded by the drastic impact of Covid-19 on both play and administration of the game. Having discovered the advantages of videoconferencing, in saving travel time and meeting costs, he thought it would be here to stay, though he suspected that we would still want occasional physical meetings.
Council had launched strategy reviews in a number of areas, including refereeing, marketing and communication, efficiency, technology, relationship with the Federations, membership, competitive play (both AC and GC) and inclusivity and diversity. He felt strongly about the latter, feeling that it was a hitherto neglected area which if handled well could bring considerable benefits to the sport.
In terms of practical delivery, for which the Executive Board was responsible, an electronic newsletter was now being sent monthly to members. The shop website has been revamped, making it mobile friendly, and a discount scheme for members has been implemented... just in time for purchasing Christmas gifts! Many members have been critical of elements of the main CA website. A working group was set up to make improvements to the front end, which are currently being implemented.
He ended by thanking his predecessor, John Bowcott, for being one of the team behind the governance changes, whilst recognising that they would take a time to work through. He himself would be stepping down next year, with the expectation that Samir Patel would take over from Patricia Duke-Cox as Vice-Chairman and then Chairman of Council. Roger Staples had taken on chairing the Executive Board at short notice and will be succeeded by Beatrice McGlen. Derek Knight had resigned from Council on health grounds, but made a strong contribution. He also thanked Peter Death and Ian Burridge for their smooth handover and respective contributions as Hon. Treasurer, and hoped for the same when the Secretary retired this year.
Brian Wilson spoke to advocate more ambitious targets for increasing membership, saying that a number of clubs had already expanded this year. Jonathan replied that it was difficult to set percentage targets, as this year had been exceptional, but his immediate aim was to reach 10,000 players.
Jack Wicks raised concerns that stemmed from the handling of a complaint about social media usage and was assured that the CA's use of social media would be reviewed, along with those for handling complaints in an age of increasingly rapid communication.
Ian Burridge reported that the 2019 accounts had shown a deficit of £6.5K, which had been smaller than anticipated. He also predicted a deficit for the current year, though smaller than originally anticipated due to reduced meeting costs and other expenditure as a consequence the pandemic. Looking further ahead, Council wanted a balanced budget, which would make the budgeting process more of a challenge.
The business part of the meeting then ended with the announcement that the constitutional amendments had been comfortably passed with the necessary 6 to 4 majority, the smallest one being 54 votes in favour and 4 against for the change to Affiliate Club membership. Thanks to David and Eileen Magee for acting as scrutineers.
After reading the names in the benefactors' book, presentations then followed.
Callum Johnson had been awarded the Apps Memorial Bowl; Sophie McGlen the Steel Memorial Bowl and Steve Leonard the Spiers Trophy, who attributed his success to the organisers of the International Performance Development Squad.
Ian Shore was named as Coach of the Year and spoke of his aspirations for a new Academy at High Wycombe next year.
Abbreviated citations for the Diploma winners were then read, followed by longer ones for the two recipients of the new Bernard Neal awards for exceptional services to Croquet. Peter Death displayed his, which took the form of an engraved glass vase, and John Grimshaw was shown being presented with his by Brian Shorney, a former Chairman of Council. Both paid tribute to the clubs, and their members, who had encouraged them to take up the game: Nottingham and Bristol respectively.
In closing the meeting, Quiller Barrett thanked the members of the Coronavirus Task Force for helping clubs resume play as soon as that became possible after the lockdown. As an uncertain winter approaches, he asked clubs to keep in touch with members who may be vulnerable, particularly if they live alone. Whatever restrictions may be imposed on us in the future, may we all make the most of what CA members choose should be the new normal for croquet.