"I am a Norfolk man and Glory in being so." Horatio Nelson

Hedges brushes off challenge at ESMBA AGM

While much of this year’s ESMBA AGM left one with that familiar feeling of déjà vu, there were moments of interest for the County Association delegates. Their familiar faces almost give this annual occasion a feel of a jovial reunion get-together. This was soon dispelled when the election of Officers saw Chairman Barry Hedges of Essex challenged by James Scoins of Somerset. A complete lack of any experience at Chairman level was always going to be James Scoins’ Achilles heel. And so it proved to be following probing questions from Chris Willies of West Mids after ESMBA President George Clarke invited both Hedges & Scoins to speak and answer questions prior to the vote. Clarke abruptly brought the forceful questioning of Scoins to an end and one felt it was a pity that other delegates, besides the West Mids Chairman, were not given the opportunity to question Scoins on some of his views detailed in a letter he sent to County Associations. Roger Green asked Barry Hedges what his number one priority was if re-elected and he said that it was communication. The vote was predictable with Hedges collecting 29 votes while the Somerset challenger received just 9. But three years after unseating Chris Hopkins as ESMBA Chairman there seems to be almost an air of frustration surrounding Hedges who started his tenure with such enthusiasm that seems to have been eroded by circumstance since the resignation of Keith Hawkins many moons ago now piled extra work on his shoulders. The major changes to the Constitution that finally installed an Administration Officer have proved a total failure after a promising start. Such a pity that so much time and expense was wasted by the ESMBA in pushing through these changes that have achieved little. At the 2016 AGM it was evident that the Administration role was a dead duck and the meeting had ended with Hedges declaring that the role was too much for one person and that he would vote to go back to the previous way of doing things. After agreeing that the matter would be discussed at the next ESMBA meeting in 2016 many delegates had expected proposals from the ESMBA to change the Constitution but none came. The Chairman’s report for the 2017 AGM provided that déjà vu moment as he said that the Association should look at restructuring the committee as the Administration role had not worked. That much was plain twelve months ago. With almost all the roles previously carried out by the Administration Officer now carried out by others either on, or off, the Committee it seemed surprising that the role which was left vacant last year had a candidate ready to take over this year. Even more surprising was the fact that it became obvious that if elected few, if any, of those roles would now be carried out by the Administration Officer. David Millington-Jones, who had stepped down from the Coaching Director role, was duly elected as the new Administration Officer but with Roger Green still looking after memberships, the I.C.C in the capable hands of the Competition Organiser and Sutton Winson taking on the day to day running of the scheme themselves, the whole role of the Administration Officer appears to be redundant. Despite no nomination being received for the now vacant Coaching Director role Barry Hedges had indicated from the chair that he was aware of a possible candidate. This appeared to be Brian Baker of Dorset  who was present at the meeting but when he appeared reluctant to confirm his interest in the position the former ESMBA Chairman Chris Hopkins sprang a surprise by saying that he would take on the post. This appeared to change Baker’s mind who quickly indicated he would stand for the position. When both spoke it became obvious that Chris Hopkins strongly felt that the ESMBA should run their own coaching course instead of taking the BDA route that appears to have gained favour with the ESMBA despite the history between the organisations that have left many in the sport wary of any dealings with the BDA. Hopkins was critical of the high costs of the BDA Coaching courses and said that our coaching courses are better than the Coach Bowls course. Earlier Roger Green of North Yorks had suggested that the ESMBA could pay 50% of the fee. Chris Willies of West Mids had suggested a loan scheme for members wanting to take Coaching Courses. Brian Baker appeared to be a supporter of the BDA route favoured by the ESMBA Committee. This appeared to give delegates an ideal opportunity to have a clear choice over the future of short mat bowls coaching but this was dashed when Hopkins suddenly changed his mind over standing for election. This left even the Chairman momentarily looking amazed at the sudden change of mind. With no opposition Brian Baker was elected as Coaching Director with 26 votes for and 11 abstentions. It is unusual to have this number of abstentions when a candidate is unopposed but it appeared to demonstrate that there is definitely a difference of opinion in the sport as to the way forward on the coaching front. During the meeting Chris Hopkins had complained that no coaching courses had been held for three years. Martin Davies stepped down as Umpire Director after just two years in the role saying in his report that it had been an amazing experience. Joseph Newsome of North Yorks was proposed from the floor and elected. Officers re-elected unopposed were George Clarke as President, Barbara Mills as Treasurer, Brandon Whittaker as Competition Organiser & Roy Duke as Development Officer. Earlier Chris Willies had praised Brandon Whittaker for his brilliant running of the World Championships. With no nomination received for the post of Committee Secretary Rachel Cordy of Essex  was proposed from the floor and elected. In a vote for three Committee places James Scoins of Somerset, Rachel Pedley of Northants & Nicky Bartlett of Kent were elected giving Scoins the chance of gaining experience on the committee. Due to medical issues the Treasurer Barbara Mills was unable to attend but her report stated that the ESMBA had managed to turn the excess expenditure over income into excess income over expenditure. There were a few queries over how raffle money had been allocated in the accounts which were answered by Barry Hedges. Honorariums were agreed at £500 for the Chairman, £700 for the Treasurer, £650 for the Competitions Organiser, £100 for the Unpires Director, £175 for the Committee Secretary and £100 for the Development Officer. Roger Green said he would refuse any honorarium offered for his work on memberships while Brandon Whittaker said he would donate his amount back to the ESMBA yet again. When the new Personal Accident Insurance was discussed it was confirmed that members are covered from the date that Roger Green enters them onto the ESMBA database. During a long discussion over minute taking at ESMBA meetings George Clarke suggested that a professional be paid to take the minutes. Barry Hedges appeared concerned over the costs this would incur because of the length of ESMBA meetings. Roger Green praised Carol Hawkins and suggested she be approached as a paid minute taker. Chris Willies suggested that one of the Committee be put on a minute taking course. Forms for a new National Competition, the Over 55 Pairs, were given out. The finals of this event will be held on the same day as the Under 18’s. A long discussion took place on the I.C.C with Northants complaining about the group their Premier team is in and the long journeys involved. Chris Hopkins said he would not play this season because of it and that he was not the only one. Other counties who regularly incur long journeys such as Devon and Norfolk were mentioned. The issue of Norfolk & Oxfordshire playing at a neutral venue a while back  when Oxfordshire refused to travel to Norfolk was touched upon as a possible solution. The Norfolk Chairman pointed out they only agreed to this as a one off to help the ESMBA solve the fixture problem at the time. In the Open Forum a letter from the Norfolk Chairman concerning falling membership numbers in the sport and playing unregistered leagues and counties was discussed. Judging by some comments made the ESMBA policy on registered players appears to be ignored by some with suspicion that in some parts of the country players who do not enter national competitions are playing against registered players locally. Northants’ Chris Hopkins commented that Norfolk Over 60’s play against unregistered players in their Over 60’s League. This was immediately refuted by Norfolk who asked who he was referring to. When Hopkins revealed that it was West Mids Over 60s they advised Chris Hopkins that Norfolk play Northants and Cambridgeshire in the Eastern England Over 60’s League and that West Mids don’t even play in it. West Mids Chairman Chris Willies appeared to distance himself from the issue by saying that West Mids Over 60’s was not an official West Mids County Team. There was much discussion about unregistered players in clubs but few answers as to what to do to enforce ESMBA policy. Norfolk, who had raised the issue of trying to attract unregistered clubs, leagues and associations such as Lincolnshire,  were advised they could get permission to play these opponents on one off occasions in an attempt to entice them to join the ESMBA. There was a discussion on how to persuade these unregistered players to join the ESMBA and the advantages of membership. Roger Green’s report on membership revealed that there had been a drop of 542 members compared to the previous season’s figures. Total membership stands at 18,321 compared with 18,859 the previous year. The worrying trend has seen figures dip from a record figure of 26,350 in 2004/05 to its present levels showing a loss of 8,029 members in twelve years. East Sussex raised the issue of the unregistered Worthing League that they had played once. There were questions on the Sutton Winson Insurance policy and it was said that details will be sent out. The contact for ESMBA members at Sutton Winson is Clare Weston and the possibility of increases in the cost of insurance due to Government tax increases were mentioned. In his report Barry Hedges had thanked Peter Fautley for his work on the ESMBA website. Chris Willies spoke about the ESMBA website and offered to work on a website for the ESMBA, his offer will be discussed at the next ESMBA meeting. After comments that the Tamworth IBC venue was unsuitable for the AGM it was agreed that another venue would be sourced for next year when the AGM is held on Saturday 7th July 2018.

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