U.C.L. Academicals Football Club

(The Accies)

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2006 UCL ACADEMICALS AGM

Held at 7pm on Monday 3rd July 2006 at Oxbridge Group, 2nd Floor, Inigo Place Churchyard, 31-32 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9ED.

Present: Danny McConnell, Graham Whitworth, Mark Dawson. Danny Fewkes, Steve Hair, Andy Williams, Alex Keast, Dave Swaby, Chris Carter, Phil Stewart, Mark Emmerson, Chris Coates, Aaron Lyon.

Apologies for absence: Stuart Bannister, Dan Willoughby, Mark McGuigan, Adrian Haysome, Steve Nash, Rick Hirst, Jon Day, Scott Atkinson, Alex Heaton.

Minutes of the 2005 AGM

The minutes of the 2005 AGM were approved.

Matters Arising

UCL had been approached about whether Sky TV could be provided, and had requested that if the Academicals wished for the college to take out a subscription, we would need to give an undertaking that players would be likely to stay at the club house longer after games. It was felt this undertaking could not be given, so the status quo would continue.

2005-06 Secretary’s Report

The Accies - Preamble

In the mid 1990’s the Accies were as fractured a “club” as it is possible to imagine. Effectively six separate clubs running under the same banner, with the only movement of players between the 1st and 2nd teams, and that rare.

A good Saturday meant a team turned up with eleven players, a better one meant they were all good enough for the standard. Getting a result was a bonus. The club rarely won any trophies, because we’d no chance of putting out sides consistently, but we would get results because we always attracted decent players.

Many people didn’t pay subs – “I’ll give it to you next week” was commonplace, and next week never came. No-one paid annual subs, and no-one took anything very seriously.

The Accies muddled on, but in May 1998 the crisis point had been reached. The club was broke, owed the league £600 in fines, and the remaining officers had had enough, and resigned en masse. The club stared at the brink, and extinction, and then stepped back.

It’s only eight years ago, but a historical lesson worth remembering. Most existing members simply won’t recognise that as being the current Accies, but in my opinion it’s a path we’re starting to drift back down.

The Accies are, to use a common phrase, a “unique” club, with significant strengths and weaknesses. Our members live all over London and travel to Shenley from great distances. Graduates of UCL tend to live all over London (Highgate, Camden and Islington being the most common areas) but we are in no sense a “geographical club”. As such, people won’t generally stay at Shenley for the evening afterwards and so forth.

Equally, we are a club for very busy people. At the risk of generalizing most of our constituency are busy people, with high powered, high stressed, and time consuming jobs. I’ve often described us as a club for people who “want to take their football seriously on a Saturday, but can’t during the week” and I still believe this to be so.

The weakness is that we don’t have the natural club spirit. An Old Meadonian probably lives close to the ground, goes home on a Tuesday and Thursday, heads off for 6.30pm training, is back home by 8.30pm, and perhaps spends much of Saturday at the club, and even Sunday morning. We can’t do that.

The positive is that we attract players of a like ilk. Good players will travel to Shenley, because they’re playing in a club with a hundred people of similar nature. They won’t get grief for missing training, and so forth.

It is an incredibly difficult balance – on the one hand you’ve got the “old Accies” where it’s a week to week fun element. On the other you’ve got the “new Accies” – where over the last 7-8 years we’ve managed to churn out consistent results and start to pick up trophies.

In 2003-04 the Accies won 78 league games, drew 23 and lost 29. We reached four cup finals, winning two.

In 2004-05 the Accies won 75 league games, drew 21 and lost 34. We reached three cup finals, winning two.

In 2005-06 the Accies won 49 league games, drew 11 and lost 68! We reached one cup final, and won it.

There is a pattern, and it’s club-wide.

Interestingly, only 48 people paid an annual sub (between seven sides), and the strain on the club administrators increased. At the end of the season five of the seven captains/managers stepped down.

The Accies belong to the 100-150 footballers who turn out most weeks to play for the club, and what the club is is what they want it to be. If people want a club that’s run “on the hoof”, results and performances will be reflected in it. If people want a serious, competitive club, then it needs to be reflected not only in footballing ability, but in organization and attitude. Do the fitness work during the week to be able to showcase your ability, turn up on time on a Saturday so the team is focusing on the game, not on whether the kit will arrive, pay up your subs when they’re due so the skipper isn’t stressing and make yourself available as much as the diary will allow.

I believe all of these elements to be club-wide, some reflected in certain teams to greater or lesser extents.

1st XI (6 annual subs paid) – After two seasons of finishing in anti-climax, a very different season. From October through to January the firsts simply didn’t know how to win. Lack of sharpness was doubtless a factor, as a lazy preseason continued into a lazy winter, and only when relegation stared us in the eyes did we show signs of shaking off the ennui, and scramble to safety.

For this observer, the biggest difference was one of match sharpness. 3-4 years ago most of the firsts played two competitive games per week (once for the Accies, once in the Legal League). Now it’s one competitive game per two weeks. Availability declined, probably without the same eleven starting a game all season, which meant Saturdays were more of a struggle, but the team also played less during the week.

That was reflected in results – too many games were lost because we didn’t play for ninety minutes. As some of the core members get older the diary pressure gets bigger, and if we want to remain a side capable of performing at AFC Premier Division standard more commitment, during the week, however hard that may be, will be needed.

Mark McGuigan stands down after two seasons as manager, due to time constraints with work and family.

2nd XI (1 annual sub paid) – A difficult year to analyse. Overall I think for the club to hold its 2nd XI at Senior 3 North level is an achievement, particularly as availability issues in the 1sts affected the 2nds. Yet at Christmas a league title seemed a realistic option, only for a late season drop off in results to drop the side to 4th place.

Danny Fewkes steps down after a number of years as skipper, again due to pressures of time constraints with work and home.

3rd XI (5 annual subs paid) – The brutal analysis is that the pattern of the second half of 2004-05 continued, with the team struggling all season to avoid relegation. That only one regular player was available for the final game of the season said it all, and the side struggled with availability all season.

Despite that, cup results were good, with a long run in the AFA Cup and winning the London Old Boys Cup, but these shouldn’t mask the league record.

Phil Stewart also steps down, after a particularly trying season of scrabbling around for players.

4th XI (7 annual subs paid) – after a couple of seasons of over-achievement, the 4ths pre-Christmas continued the exact same theme, looking like potential title winners, and putting the club in danger of being charged with running a stronger 4th team than 3rd team. Post Christmas, the team collapsed, losing seven games on the spin at one stage.

Availability was a constant and continuing issue, with the side regularly short on numbers. Much of the credit for the papering over of these cracks over a number of seasons should go to Dan Willoughby, who now steps down as skipper as he moves north to Nottingham. With Dan leaving I feel the Accies have lost one of best team captains in the club’s history, and we owe him a particular vote of thanks.

5th XI (14 annual subs paid) – A mixed bag of a season, with consistency never achieved. The side conceded too many goals, and probably started the season too focused on the bigger picture of trying to win the league title, rather than individual games.

Nevertheless, this was probably the most stable and settled Accies side, slightly short on natural defenders (a common complaint from third team downwards) and by far the best in terms of administration.

6th XI (10 annual subs paid) – In one sense a side showing movement in the right direction, but not reflected enough in results. The turmoil of previous seasons showed signs of disappearing, but the squad still needs to be bigger, and with more flexibility. Liason with the 5ths and 7ths was good, and if we can get a few pairs of younger legs integrated into the side, the team should settle down and challenge for promotion.

7th XI (4 annual subs paid) – Effectively this team was rebuilt during the season. Too many of the old 7ths were interested only in playing for a clique, and when a few disappeared at the start of the season, they disappeared too, though a few moved up to higher teams which suited their abilities.

Danny McConnell took over as captain in October, and throughout the season brought in new players, and a few older ones who’d been passed over in previous seasons in favour of better players who ought to have been playing higher up. As the season progressed a core slowly came together, and next season there ought to be enough of a core of players suited to the standard of 8 North that results next season should pick up significantly. Yours truly steps down as skipper for next season.

Optimists – The Veterans effectively died this season. Availability continued to decline and the team played no friendlies, and lost their one cup match in the London Old Boys Cup.

Danny Goldman remains keen to breathe life back into the Optimists, and we’ve entered the LOB Veterans Cup, but the real key is whether a dozen (ideally more) players “of an age” want to play Veterans football – at present most of those who are eligible are choosing to play for the league sides.

Golden Boot – The Golden Boot was shared by Max Lovell and Lloyd Vanson, the latter beneficiary of a late recount of goals and a dodgy decision to allow goals from an expunged game at the start of the season to count. The Golden Gloves were comfortably won by Mark Dawson, who shared his talents between the 2nds and the 1sts and played a key part in the late season surge for survivial.

AFA Cups – I should also report that during the season we lodged a protest about the AFA Intermediate Novets Cup. Kew Association cancelled their 2nd team game but still played their 6th team, and knocked us out of the AFA Cup. We protested this, as far as a Board of Appeal to the AFA, unsuccessfully. Sadly the AFA Rules didn’t seem to cover the situation, and the AFA had little concept of the Spirit of the Competition. 

There is also some discussion at league level about changing the regionalization to ease issues in the south. One suggestion is that the North should be extended to include clubs such as Parkfield, Challoners and Kolsassians. The second, perhaps less appetizing for us would be to re-designate us as a Western Club. I should be grateful for comments and thoughts from all concerned at the AGM.

**********

The Secretary’s report was accepted. It was particularly noted that in some teams promptness of players last season had been particularly lacking, and this was felt to be related to the lack of overall numbers (the threat of making latecomers start on the bench was hollow when numbers were tight.

The regionalisation aspect was considered, and whilst we prefer to remain considered as a Northern Club it was noted that our membership generally live all over London, and different people would probably welcome/not welcome any changes. This was not a major issue for the club.

Financial Statement

A copy of the balance sheet and accounts is attached. It was noted that the season surplus was £1500, but this was mainly due to the imbalance of home and away games (we played 16 more away cup games than home games, due to the vagaries of cup draws, with a consequent impact on finances).

The club’s cash balance stood at £6000, the reserve figure identified as a target back in 1998 as our requirement to have at the end of the season. This £6000 enables us to pay our AFA, AFC and LOB affiliation fees (about £1000) and our pre-Christmas pitches at Shenley (£4000) and still have £1000 to cover kit, balls etc. All of these bills are basically due before we kick a ball (and collect a penny).

The irony of this improvement of finances was that it came in the face of a serious drop in subscription income. Only 48 annual subs were collected (one would expect 100, which is a shortfall of £1250). Furthermore the system of players paying their AFA fines on the day for cautions was, in the main, ignored and on a couple of occasions teams didn’t collect match fees. Probably a further £500-£1000 went astray through subs/fines not paid, and features a few serial offenders who when chased claim they always pay their fees!

Furthermore we’d agreed that we’d charge a fee for pre-season training (£5) but this was often not collected, further placing a drain on the collective resources

Subscriptions

In light of the above, it was considered whether a re-structuring of subscriptions was in order.

The annual subscription was introduced in 1998, in the main because of a cash-flow issue as the club was broke. With the club having achieved a £6000 surplus that was now irrelevant. Furthermore, the annual subscription had continually proved difficult to collect, evidenced by last season’s numbers.

It was proposed we consider three options:-  

1.       Retain the current subs - £30 annual subscription and £8 match fee.

2.       Increase match fees to £9 and abolish the annual subscription

3.   Increase match fees to £10 and abolish the annual subscription, as well as abolishing the training subscription for pre-season etc.

The last option was approved (with one dissenting vote favouring option 1). Whilst this shows a higher “headline” subscription it makes the collection of subs much easier, and will hopefully reduce the workload on captains.

Based on the 168 games played last season the increase in match fees would be approximately £3200, but the loss of annual subscriptions (based on last year’s collect) would be approximately £1500. This ought to leave us with substantial scope to subsidise training and still leave the club in surplus.

It was further agreed that the “half-subs” discount for new graduates would be extended from one year to two years – anyone unemployed, still a student, or within two years of graduation would be entitled to pay half match fees.

Club Rules

The post of Results Secretary, who will collate the result sheets from the seven captains and send off the Comprehensive Results Sheet to the league, was created.

The post of UCL Liason officer was created.

The discipline code agreed last year was discussed, and it was agreed that the system of collecting fines for cautions on the day of the game should be continued.

Contacts with UCL

Whilst the influx of ex-UCL players was slowly improving, it was agreed we should do more.

During the season the UCL Alumni Office have been making serious strides, particularly in trying to gather the other alumni sports (Hockey, Cricket, Rowing and Rugby to the fore) under an umbrella organization. This has led to the creation of www.uclsport.net - a blogging website which it is hoped will develop over the next twelve months.

Consequently the post of UCL Liason has been created, someone to liase with the Students, and the alumni office. One of the major strengths the Hockey Club have told us is that they have a first year graduate on their committee to liase with the current students (they also have current students playing for them, as there’s no student hockey on a Saturday) and we may be able to learn from this. We may not be able to get current students playing for us, but perhaps we could look at getting them along to any training we may organise.

Following the AGM the Chairman to try and seek one of more recently graduated members to take up the post.

Number of Teams to Run in 2006-07

One of the fundamental problems during 2005-06 was the lack of players at 2nd/3rd/4th team level. The club currently run sides in the AFC Premier Division (top division), Senior 3 North (3 divisions below Premier), Intermediate North (4 divisions below Premier), 1 North (5 divisions below Premier) and then 5 North (4 divisions below the 4ths). Effectively the 4ths are as close to the 1sts as they are to the 5ths.

That we have sufficient players of an ability to play in 5 North, 7 North (6ths) and 8 North (7ths) is in little doubt, but to find 45+ players capable of filling the 2nds, 3rds and 4ths is much harder, particularly if, as currently seems likely, movement from the 2nds next season is likely to be upwards, rather than downwards.

 

There was a good amount of discussion about this problem, and it was felt the appropriate course was to warn the league we might have a problem, but to place particular emphasis on recruiting new players over the summer – many of the club members may not have been aware of the gravity of the problem, as the skippers generally managed to sort out sides. If at the end of September, we were still unable to field separate 3rd and 4th teams, then we might have to ask the AFC to allow us to withdraw one or other side.

Election of Officers

The following had all been proposed, unopposed, 21 days in advance of the AGM, so were duly elected according to club rules:

Chairman – Danny McConnell                                                        Vice Chairman – Mark Dawson

Treasurer – Mark Emmerson                                                        Secretary – Danny McConnell

Fixture Secretary – Mark Dawson                                       Results Secretary – Ethu Crorie

Referees Secretary – Graham Whitworth                                             4th XI Captain/Manager – Steve Woodrow

5th XI Captain/Manager – Chris Coates                                      6th XI Captain/Manager – Chris Carter

7th XI Captain/Manager – Jonathan Day                                          Veterans XI Captain – Danny Goldman

In addition, on the evening there were nominations for the posts of 1st XI Captain (Steve Hair) and 2nd XI Captain (Mark Walker).

The position of the 3rd XI captain was more tricky. It was felt a number of possible candidates might be put off because they hoped to be playing 2nd team football, and this would be dependent on the influx of new players, pre-season and so forth. In the circumstances Phil Stewart agreed to continue as captain to oversee the team through pre-season, but once the season started and the squad had become more settled, we would find a replacement.

Phil’s offer was accepted with gratitude.

This left vacancies for Social Secretary and UCL Liason.

Pre-Season

Last season’s pre-season was, to put it mildly, a shambles, with a general ennui and lack of commitment that continued into the season.

It was agreed that the general structure of pre-season (starting in Regents Park in late July, club-wide midweek sessions/practice matches throughout August and into September, and pre-season games increasing from late August to the start of the season) should continue, but captains should emphasise to players the importance of commitment. If we don’t want a repeat of last season we need to take pre-season more seriously.

Rick Hirst was keen to organize much of the pre-season fitness sessions.

It was also agreed that with the hoped for influx of new players, we should organize a number of inter-club fixtures during pre-season, to ensure new players are settled into the right teams.

Ideally each team should have at least one “proper” pre-season game  the week before they start league games.

League games start on Saturday 16th September for the 1sts and 2nds, Saturday 23rd September for the 3rds and Saturday 30th September for the rest.

Training

Training was once again discussed. The majority opinion was that regular training remained impractical for a club so widespread and busy, and that any training had to be club-wide, both to be fair to all and also to get the maximum number of people attending.

It was hoped a number of ad hoc training opportunities might arise through contacts in the London Legal League, and these would probably be sufficient. It was possible the 1st and 2nd teams might investigate a 5-a-side facility, and it was agreed if this progressed it should be self-funding.

An alternative suggestion to training was entering a midweek league. It was agreed that Danny Fewkes and Mark Emmerson would investigate the viability of this. Again, it would need to be self-funding, so we would need to identify the costs and then outline to the club the commitment, and match fee which would be involved. If sufficient members (20+) then showed a genuine interest we would look at entering such a league.

Kit

Given the surplus from this season, it was agreed that each team should have its own set of “changed shirts”, to reduce the hassle of tracking them and also to cater for opposition not having a change at away games. It was felt this would require us to buy three new sets of shirts (yellow, matching the change set bought last season).

The Chairman was in the process of sorting out the existing kits, to identify whether any new kit was needed, or simply old kits un-muddling! We should still ensure that a full spare kit, and at least two sets of change shirts resided at Shenley.

It was agreed to “encourage” all teams to wear Accies colours where possible – no more pretending we’re Crystal Palace!

Any Other Business

Watford’s promotion to the Premiership was not considered likely to affect the Accies.

The meeting closed at 9.30pm, with particular thanks to Andy Williams for supplying his company offices at last minute notice. Thanks were also noted to Paul Ballantyne and Neil Gillard, who made similar offers, but weren’t able to include free beer so their offers were not taken up!