St. Mary's College RFC

Founded 1900

Co. Dublin

President's Report 2020 - 2021

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President’s Report 2020 - 2021

Dear Member,

Well, here we are at that time of year that would normally be the end of the season.  There has been nothing normal about season 20/21.  It has been an incredibly hard and difficult year for everyone.  The club has lost a number of members during the year who we will always remember.  We have been unable to say the goodbyes that we would have wished to these friends of ours.  May they rest in peace.  Many members have struggled financially.  Every day we are hearing of more and more of our friends struggling with mental health issues caused by this pandemic.

The club has been closed for pretty much all of the last 12 months.  We did manage to resume training and had a few matches back in September but unfortunately had to shut down again.  We are delighted that in the last few weeks, we have once again resumed training. It is particularly heartening to see the underage teams training and having matches lined up.  This pandemic has been especially difficult for our children.

Despite the club being effectively closed for the full year, a huge amount of work and planning has been done to ensure the financial security of the club but also to plan for the future of the club.  The officers have successfully run the club throughout lockdown, meeting virtually every two weeks.  The result of all the work is the club is very stable from a financial perspective with an excellent plan for the future.  

The club responded to the challenge of Covid.  Very early, a Covid Health & Safety Committee was established to ensure the safety of members and adherence to government guidelines.  This committee under the chair of David Mowlds has operated successfully since then.  Tracing has operated successfully and allowed us to continue.  Our Covid Health & Safety Committee was used by Leinster Branch as the model for all rugby clubs.

The club is very strong and stable from a financial perspective unlike many other sports clubs.  A number of measures were taken to protect the club’s finances.  These included putting our main club debt on interest only for 6 months, availing of the wage subsidy schemes, reducing expenditure to a minimum, successfully applying for various grants from both the IRFU and local authorities.  We started a monthly club draw which has operated very well and will continue to grow as we reopen.  Members responded incredibly to the Presidents Appeal and I would personally like to thank everyone who was so generous.  Our main club sponsors have stuck with us and thank you to SoftCo, G-Mack, Fanagans and Morgan Crowe for their continued support.  The Corporate Sponsorship Working Group have worked incredibly hard to maintain our corporate sponsors and income.  They have been developing new initiatives for the coming seasons. 

As we have all been stuck at home and unable to meet each other, the Communications Working Group have been keeping us updated through the new ClubZap app as well as our website and social media channels.  A particular highlight was the series of interviews with Glenn Tracey which was fantastic.  ClubZap was launched at the end of last season and is now our main tool for interacting with members.  Over 50% of the funds raised through the President’s Appeal came through ClubZap, the monthly draw is done through ClubZap, every team does their Covid protocols through ClubZap as well communicating training and matches to players and parents. 

The club and grounds are in fantastic condition.  The House & Grounds Working Group have been busy.  The lockdown enabled the pitches to get the full benefit of the seasonal work and they are in super condition.  Peter O’Kelly (Pokey as we all know him) joined as groundsman in March last year.  Pokey has done great work as everyone will see when we are all back using the club fully or may have seen already on social media.  Thank you, Pokey.  Tony McGuinness, our bar manager, has been working hard with the Covid Committee and House & Grounds to prepare for reopening the outdoor terrace as a bar which we will do as soon as we are allowed.  We look forward to seeing you Tony and thank you.

The Membership Working Group has been the driver of the successful implementation of ClubZap.  The app allows payment of subscriptions and the Monthly Club Draw as well as a communication tool.  This group has worked with the Corporate Sponsorship Working Group to examine potential new membership classes for example an overseas membership class.  It has also worked on ways to improve membership enjoyment and participation.  

Although the Members Activities & Fundraising Events Working Group has not been established, a number of activities and planning has taken place in this area.  As mentioned previously, the Monthly Club Draw is operating successfully.  The Members Business Network is being re-established and its LinkedIn page is up and running already.  The DAF coffee mornings have continued virtually throughout the pandemic.  St Marys College RFC Men’s Shed has been set up and planning is under way for various activities once restrictions allow.  The inaugural annual Memorial Service for deceased members will take place later in the year during November. 

The Rugby Working Group has worked with the Covid Committee to safely allow our players to train and play when we were allowed this year and continue to do so as we slowly reopen.  At this point in time, it is still unclear what the structure and competitions of season 21/22 will look like but we will be ready.  Many teams have continued training individually through online forums and challenges throughout lockdown.  Well done and thank you to all the coaches and managers.  There is no doubt that every club and every sport will face great challenges to retain their playing members following this extended break from sport. We will rise to the challenge.  A club tag rugby tournament is scheduled to begin in June to give everyone a chance to get back playing safely.

At the heart of the club working to keep everything going has been our wonderful club administrator, Marie Hammond.  Marie is one of the biggest reasons that the club is in as good as position as it now is.  Thank you, Marie.

Our world has changed and St. Marys College RFC needs to change with it.  A huge amount of work has been done planning for this change and for the future of the club.  It has been accepted for many years that the current structures are not fit for purpose.  Back in April last year the Officers and Trustees commissioned a small group of 2 previous club chairmen and a very experienced businessperson to review the structure of the club.  This group recommended a structure comprising a small Executive Committee with a number of Working Sub-Groups and a Club Forum where the Committee and Working Sub-Groups would meet as a consultative assembly and for good communication.  This structure has been developed further into the model that is included in the Appendices of the Strategic Roadmap 2021 - 2024.  The group also recommended that the new structure be part of a wider plan to invigorate the club incorporating a clear statement of the Vision of the Club. 

The officers have worked extremely hard developing this wider plan, this vision.  

It is the Strategic Roadmap 2021 - 2024.  I firmly believe that implementing the Strategic Roadmap is critical for the future of the club.

The club has been very fortunate to draw on the knowledge and experience of a number of experts in their respective fields to develop the Roadmap.  They have all done this voluntarily and at no cost to the club.  The membership have contributed hugely to the process through the Members Survey, the Townhalls and through their feedback.  Individual in depth interviews were conducted with members from all areas of the club.  A review was done of information gained in previous initiatives as well as a review of the strategic plans of other rugby clubs, the Irish provinces, the IRFU and clubs and unions outside Ireland.  Two external consultants who operate in sports were used.  These consultants have worked with the IRFU as well as other national and international sports governing bodies such FIFA, UEFA and FIBA.  The main research and work were done by a strategy consultant who has worked for leading international and domestic companies.  An expert in consumer surveys and sentiment was used to design the Members Survey, collate, and interpret the results.  An award-winning cameraman and editor produced a short video for us.  A learning and development expert who has designed and implemented transformational projects for leading international and national financial institutions has worked on the roll out of the Strategic Roadmap.  I would like to say a huge thank you to all these individuals who have given freely of their time and expertise.

The Strategic Roadmap 2021-2024 is the result of all this work.  It is the roadmap to bring St. Marys College RFC back to the top of Irish rugby.  We have a very long and proud tradition.  However, the club has been struggling.  We were relegated to division 1B and have been in the bottom half of 1B for the last two years.  We have lost our women’s team, our Under 20s are playing in the second tier, we have lost junior teams.  Our minis have been developed into a very strong part of the club as have the youths section.  But we lose huge numbers as players graduate from each section and the standard could be greatly improved.  Despite some great work in last few years, our membership numbers are falling.  The club bar and social events are not supported as they once were.

The Strategic Roadmap is what you the members have said that you want from and for the club.  The most important priority is Rugby.  The key strategic priorities for Rugby are to get back to 1A and back to the top of 1A; to establish a Youth Academy – let’s attract young players and stop the drop off of players when they leave school; to improve coaching and referee development – if we improve coaching, we will improve our standard of rugby; to increase participation and enjoyment in junior and underage rugby; and to re-establish women’s rugby where work is being done to achieve.

There are 4 other pillars of the Strategic Roadmap.  Our Roots; Growing Our Family; Financial Sustainability; and Clear and Accountable Governance.  The Strategic Roadmap delivers what you have asked for.  The Strategic Roadmap directly addresses the issues facing the club including those detailed above.

The Strategic Roadmap is a 3 year plan 2021 – 2024.  It will take energy, alignment and engagement and a commitment of everyone to put the interests of the club above everything.  We have fantastic members in St. Marys College RFC and many of you have already put your hands up to help.  So please do get involved and help the Vice President Patrick Crawford and Junior Vice President Gareth Roche who have committed to driving and delivering the Strategic Roadmap during their terms of office.  

St. Marys College RFC is and has been a huge part of my life since I joined the club as a 17 year old back in 1985, although I had being coming to club with my dad as a kid for many years going back to Fortfield Road days.  It has been an honour to represent Mary’s as an Irish international and a British and Irish Lion as well as wearing Mary’s socks playing for the Barbarians.  It has been a privilege to follow my father John as club President.  Much as I would have loved to represent you and the club as your President next year when we will have rugby and social events, I have decided that I cannot continue for a second year as President.

Yours in Rugby,
Vinnie Cunningham

St. Mary’s College RFC
Season 2020/2021

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