Peter Graham and Ray McLennan write:

August 2016

Welcome to the new season at London Irish

It’s hard to believe that 12 months ago we were looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in England, the launch of our new Ladies’ Section and building on our tremendous first season at Hazelwood. And what a season it turned out to be.

Across the club our players and coaches were honoured with representative call-ups:

Playing Honours 2015/16:
Max Ayling (U16s) – England U16s
Seb Rodwell and Matt Cornish (Wild Geese) – England Counties
Ciaran McGann, Jack Walters and Ciaran Johnston – Exiles U18s
Darren Livett, Matt Cornish, Charlie Connor, Michael Bunn, Tom Richards, Olle Turner, Jordan Gott, Sean Cunningham, Eamon Atkinson (Wild Geese) – Surrey Senior team
Seb Rodwell – Gloucester Senior team
U13s – 4 selected for Surrey
U14s – 4 selected for Surrey and
U15s – 4 selected for Surrey and 8 selected for Middlesex
U16s all with county players

Coaches
Duncan Cormack – Assistant Coach at Surrey Seniors and appointed head coach of Surrey for 2016/17
Kevin Coyle – Head Coach, Surrey Ladies – winning national championships in May. The team is also managed by our own Justine Tate.

The Wild Geese won promotion to National League 2 South after an exhilarating season of tries and bonus point wins with a few last gasp victories secured via long-range penalty kicks.

The New Season

Before I talk about the season ahead it is important to pay special thanks to a few people who are stepping down from the Executive Committee. Terry Long has been Honorary Secretary of the club for 10 years and also ran the food and beverage operation at the Avenue. Alan McCartney has stood down as President after his second spell on the Executive Committee of the club and travelled the length and breadth of the South East representing the club at matches and official events.
On behalf of all the members a heartfelt thank you gentleman, I hope you have a little more time on your hands this season to enjoy the rugby and other great facilities at Hazelwood.

Sponsors

To support the Club going forward, we are delighted to announce the continuing sponsorship of Powerday, the leading waste management company. We are very grateful to Mick Crossan, the company’s Chairman, and to his team for their support. You will notice that Powerday will continue to be the sponsor for the entire London Irish family this season. We are delighted, also, with the continued sponsorship of Bond Davidson.

The Irish Emigrant Support Programme, under the auspices of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Irish Government, will continue its sponsorship and support of the hugely successful Six Nations London Irish Mini Festival at the end of the season. This is in recognition of the work we do to build and maintain links between the London Irish community and rugby clubs in Ireland.

Adult Rugby

Simon Martinson continues as the Chair of Adult rugby where we continue to provide rugby for all levels. We will be fielding four adult sides this season – Wild Geese (our First XV), Wanderers (2nd XV), Nomads and, of course the Bs (Vets).

On the playing side, the Nomads will be entering Zoo Sports Shield Division 3, the Wanderers already play in Division 2 of that league. Our senior team, the Wild Geese will play in National League 2 South this season having won promotion as League Champions of National 3 South East last season. A lot of lessons were learned and a strengthened squad under Duncan Cormack has really taken shape over the summer. Another exciting team will take the field this year. Our first home league game is September 10th against Redingensians, so please make every effort to get down to Hazelwood and support the boys.

I am delighted that Scott Moore will continue as Club Captain. Scott has been a key member of the Geese squad for some time leading the squad to the top of the league and promotion last season and I know everyone wishes him and the team well for the season ahead.

The Geese were great supporters of Youth rugby last season where they regularly helped out with coaching our young players and I know Scott and his team are committed to helping out at both Mini and Youth level this year.

Amateur Academy (U17 – U21)

One of the big challenges for us, and many other clubs, is to retain players from 17 to 21 years of age and on into adult rugby. So we have established a dedicated Academy section for the 17 – 21 age group. The Academy Section will be managed by John Rafferty this year and Duncan Cormack will oversee the coaching for this key group. The U17s will play in the Surrey league, the U18s in the National Cup.

Ladies’ Rugby

In case you haven’t noticed, we launched Ladies’ Rugby at London Irish last season. Under the dynamic leadership of Mary Fyfe, the London Irish Ladies have grown rapidly and are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with, on and off the pitch. The Ladies play both full contact and touch rugby so offer a truly varied range of opportunities to suit all abilities and ages. One of Mary’s key objectives is to grow Ladies rugby at London Irish so please spread the word to friends and colleagues about the great things going on in ladies rugby at London Irish.

Youth and Mini Rugby

We begin the season off the back of another hugely successful season at youth and mini level. One of the largest and most successful youth and mini sections in the South East, no other club has teams in Division 1 of every age group from Under 13-18 in Surrey. County champions at Under 13 and 14 and runners up at Under 16 and 18 certainly augurs well. No club has as many kids playing mini rugby and no club comes close to the scale of the Mini Festival that Eric Griffith and his team put on each season. We expect this to continue this season as we have exceptionally strong squads at all youth age groups and amongst the minis. We will also see a considerable influx of our most talented players into the Professional Academy through a restructured model.

Gavin Wheeler will take over from Steve Carter as Youth Rugby Chairman (Under 12 – Under 16 age groups). He will also work closely with our Referee Coordinator, Brian Lynch to ensure that more referees come through from minis to youth. The whole area of refereeing will be a critical area of focus for us this season.

Eric Griffith continues as Minis Chairman and has already established a strong festival committee to maintain the huge success of our second festival at Hazelwood last April. With the introduction of the new continuum at mini level, this is also a period of great change for coaches and parents from Under 7-11.

We have made a commitment to expand the knowledge, skill level, and enjoyment of all our players in this very important year for the club. We all believe in the values of club loyalty and teamwork that have got us to National League level. We will now endeavour to build a club like no other at this level, where players are given a positive environment in which to have fun and develop their game whilst retaining our amateur ethos.

Social Events

In addition to the current calendar of the Honours Tie Dinner, Past Players Lunch, Leprechaun Lunch, Ladies Lunch, and the Golf Day this season we will be running:

• a Vice-Presidents’/Past Presidents’ Lunch
• a Coaches’ and Managers’ lunch
• some under-age fixtures under lights on a Friday evening
• age group sponsorship of each Wild Geese home game
• our first youth rugby festival
• Club Day for all teams in all sections of the club (probably in April)

The season will kick off on Sunday September 4th, which is also club registration day, and the Geese will start their National League 2 season on September 3rd away to Chinnor. Please make every effort to support them through the season.

Kit

Alongside the Professional Club we have continued our contract with Irish shirt manufacturer O’Neills to provide all our kit this season. Kit can be purchased through the club website on line. A limited supply will be available in the club shop on weekends but we expect the bulk of purchases will be made on-line. Please see the website for details.

Membership for Season 2016/17

This season we are introducing a new online membership system. This will enable members to pay subscriptions quickly and conveniently online and help the club reduce the cost of administration. If you are already a member, there will be no need to register again this year. More details to follow from our membership Secretary, Martin Gammon.

Our contribution (rent) to Hazelwood is £90,000 per year until it starts to turn a profit and this takes up the bulk of our subscriptions. In addition, we have costs for training and first aid kit, festival entries, physios for all levels, senior coaches, travel and expenses for Adult Teams, after match meals for youth and adult, coaching courses.

So we have had to make a small change to our Membership fees for this season to reflect our cost base. You can help us keep subs at this level by supporting club events and fundraisers, bringing in sponsors or programme advertisers or buying raffle/club lotto tickets. It really is a case of every little helps.

We have also introduced the EMERALD CLUB.

In order to keep basic memberships costs at a reasonable level we plan to raise £100,000 per annum by creating a Premier LIARFC Supporters, to be called The Emerald Club

In addition to normal membership benefits (listed below) the Emerald Club also offers the following benefits.

One adult membership or a discount of £100 off any other category of membership

Priority application for 2 International tickets for any Autumn Internationals or Six Nations games 2016-2017. (The present Guaranteed Match Ticket scheme has been withdrawn). Application forms/instructions will follow directly.

A season ticket for all Wild Geese home games to include parking and programme. Martin Gammon will send this out soon with your membership card.

Lunch for two at Hazelwood for 2 Wild Geese matches of your choice. Choose your games and then book with Fiona McHugh at Hazelwood.

An invitation to lunch at the clubs mini festival

Your name or company entry in the Match day programme. Bart O’Connell will add you to programme list.

£250 discount on a team entry for our Annual Golf Day at Walton Heath Golf Club. Contact Peter Whiteside to organise. (As an alternative to this, members can book a further 3 lunches at Wild Geese games).

Participation in the quarterly 200 club draw.

Fees will be as follows this season:

Adult Playing Member £205
Students(Over 18 in full-time 3rd level education) £85
General Member £90
Ladies Playing Member £100
Overseas Member £55
Parent and Child (Child in Mini/Youth up to U17) £190
Family 1 – Both parents and one Mini/Youth player £225
Family 2 – One parent and two or more Mini/Youth players £245
Family 3 – Both parents and two or more Mini/Youth players £270
Wild Geese Season Ticket including Entrance & Car Park £55
The Emerald Club: £1000 payable in one installment or over 10 months.

Your membership for 2016/17 includes:

5% discount on food and drink at Hazelwood for members (you will need to show your membership card to secure the discount)
50% (£5) discount on entry to all Geese Nat 2 league matches (you can save another 10% by buying a season ticket)
Lastly, to encourage members to join quickly, we are offering free membership of the professionals Exiles Club. To qualify, your subscription must be in by September 30th.

Fundraising – 200 Club

I know that you support LIARFC in many ways already but our club needs lots more support to compete in National Leagues and run all the teams currently playing at Hazelwood.

Another way to support is through the New 200 Club (see website for more details)

200 Club membership limited to 200 people, the cost is £200 /annum for 4 draws in Sept/Dec/Mar/May. You can pay in one go or £50 / quarter.

Prizes include:
1. 6 Nations ticket packages for Twickenham or Aviva,
2 Tickets for Autumn games at Twickenham
3. Lunch for 10 at Hazelwood

The next draw is September 2015.

International Tickets

As always we have a limited number of international match tickets available to purchase this season. Please contact our International Ticket Secretary, Peter Whiteside, for details. Or download the form

Code of Conduct

As most of you are aware, the club has a code of conduct for Players, Supporters, Parents and Coaches. We draw your attention to the website and encourage you to refresh your knowledge of this code. London Irish has a long standing reputation of welcoming friend and foe alike, enjoying ourselves and playing hard, uncompromising but fair rugby football. We applaud good play and are supportive when things go wrong. This reputation supersedes everything. We will not allow anything to besmirch it. Please bear this in mind as we prepare for exciting times ahead.

Volunteers

We would like again to formally thank; Terry Long, Alan McCartney, Lynn Carter, Mary Fyfe, Michael Anderson, Noel Traynor, Martin Gammon, Steve Carter, Brian Lynch, Eric Griffith, Kevin Coyle, Adrian Mulleady, Mike Old, Duncan Cormack, Trevor Johnson, Simon Martinson, John Walsh and all of the coaches, captains, team managers, festival committee and volunteers for their exceptional contribution towards the club last season.

As outlined above we have many rugby and social events going on throughout the year. We would encourage you all to attend and participate in these events and also get involved in helping organise some of them. As always, we need more people to give of their time and energy to continue to make London Irish the successful amateur club it is today. Please speak to any member of the Executive Committee if you can help.

Enjoy the season.

Peter Graham, Chairman
Ray McLennan, President