Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

2021 Chairman’s Report

My third full year as Chairman, as per my second year, was once again impacted by the global pandemic. In 2020 the decision making and planning was binary and therefore straightforward – no cricket at all, or if it were to occur without spectators behind closed doors. 2021 presented a far more complex and difficult set of challenges as spectators returned – a seemingly daily changing series of restrictions and changing rules to adhere to, which placed considerable pressures on our nimble, responsive and resilient staff. They responded brilliantly and deserve our thanks, praise and accolades.

Our 40th President, Cynthia Crawford, has kept us all entertained and upbeat over this challenging period. She really is a remarkable person, with such a long-standing association with our Club. Despite her curtailed opportunities to represent us last year, she has been a wonderful ambassador for Worcestershire.

I would like to thank the whole board for their support this year and their progressive commitment to moving things forward. Everyone has an active role in supporting this club – which you would expect given our scale. Dave Manning now has board responsibility for safeguarding, and Emma Hallam now leads our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (‘EDI’) plan. Paul Pridgeon has worked tirelessly in chairing the Cricket Steering Group and as Vice Chairman of our Club. He has been remarkably busy, and
the club owes him enormous thanks for operating at such a high level. The complexity of signing overseas players, with the influence of the IPL and international schedules should not be underestimated.

Cricket in the latter part of 2021 was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The harrowing testimony of Azeem Rafiq in front of the DCMS committee understandably reflected poorly on the game, particularly the handling of the situation and the governance structures elsewhere. Game wide much needs to be learnt and improved; the EDI plan, which the game, including ourselves, signed up to, is a welcome and necessary first step.

We have so much more, as a game, to do to improve accessibility and to ‘inspire generations’ – beyond soundbites and occasional free to air broadcasting of the odd game. It is pleasing, given all the hard work over many years, that we at Worcestershire are already well ahead of key ECB targets set for cricket. Cricket, of course, doesn’t operate in a vacuum. I am really confident the game can collectively recover and demonstrate how it can continue be a force for good, and to facilitate necessary societal change.

I am heartened, having been on countless calls with other first class counties, that there is much good work being done, over many years to make cricket more accessible and improve opportunities for all irrespective of social or ethnic background.

Of course, there is much more to do. However, there are amazing, uplifting, authentic actions taken by many in cricket that need to be shared and emulated – from the wonderful Ramadan night cricket provision at Warwickshire CCC, to state school provision at Hampshire CCC, to free food provision and sport provided by our own recreational cricket team here at Worcestershire.

I certainly would never underplay the importance of eliminating any form of discrimination – not least because I have personally experienced it, but cricket has much to be proud of too. Positives and lessons will emerge from this unseeming unedifying episode. At Worcestershire, whilst we will never be complacent, we have a rich history of inclusion – dating back well beyond the 1960s when Basil D’Oliveira left the apartheid regime in South Africa. We aim for further progress here at Worcestershire, all inter-linked with governance which has been reformed extensively since 2016. Issues in any organisation will always emerge, but I strongly believe governance is the cornerstone of response and performance.

Our constitution, a living document, was overwhelmingly approved in March 2018
(and approved by the FCA in March 2019) but requires the proposed minor modifications at this AGM (as shown in Appendix A) to ensure we continue to remain compliant and up to date with Sport England’s best practise. Our aim is to have gold standards of governance within a year.

Our board already has high gender representation and a range of necessary skills and experience to drive Worcestershire forward in the coming years. Diversity improves decision making, in my view, hence why it has been a focus of mine since becoming Chairman.

Our coaching teams are importantly ethnically diverse in the professional set up, and also in our talent pathways, reducing conscious (and unconscious) bias and increasing opportunities for all. We have already moved towards anonymised recruitment, and everyone at Worcestershire has regular governance, whistleblowing, reporting lines and standard setting discussions led by the Board. We have done this for quite some time and it has operated effectively. Education programs are key for all our staff, which are ongoing with external specialists, the PCA and the ECB. Worcestershire will continue to focus, hawk-like, on improving chances for all in our county. We have already substantially increased our bursary scheme to support parents with children in our talent pathways and provide free kit to children. However, there is much more we can do to make cricket more accessible. We will invest further in girls cricket and continue to focus on the growth of Central Sparks – the first stage of professional women’s cricket – which we jointly own and run with Warwickshire.

Everyone problem solves and pleasingly just gets on with things at Worcestershire. To illustrate the exceptional performance of the executive team here at the Club (of Sarah Gluyas, Dave Hoskins and from 1st November 2021 Helen Grayer), then look no further than financial performance – against a backdrop of Covid-19 (and flooding, which I am trying hard not to mention). In 2020 we informed members that the pandemic had affected revenues by £1.8mn – we estimate the impact in 2021 was slightly lower at £1.5mn – so a cumulative impact of £3.3mn over the last two years. We estimate the negative profit or cashflow impact is circa £1.0mn, a vast figure for Worcestershire.

Despite this enormous negative impact in 2020, the club reported a profit of £21,635, an underlying improvement of £820,000 on a poor 2019 performance. In 2021 government assistance was reduced by £510k – reflecting bringing staff off furlough to deal with spectators returning – and costs increased further due to additional health and safety requirements associated with Covid-19. Despite all of this to achieve a small profit of £8,477, in my opinion, is
an outstanding, or dare I say heroic, performance for Worcestershire.

Everything we do at Worcestershire has the sole aim of improving cricket performance – we are, after all, a first class cricket club. I share (and actually like) the constructive disappointment expressed with last seasons’ outcome by members. It shows how high our aspirations have increased, and we now, understandably, have expectations to compete. We are all ambitious, want to win additional trophies, and want to be that first division red ball team competing to top that league. Our goals are the same as all other first class teams, and I hasten to add we are clearly not there yet.

However, accepting this may be controversial, we have to be realistic and contextualise everything we strive for.

Members have been paitient and waited a long time for success, and Worcestershire last won the county championship in 1989 – and the NatWest Pro40 in 2007. Thankfully since then, in very recent years we won the Vitality Blast in 2018, were runners up in 2019 and almost reached the Bob Willis Trophy final in 2020. That is significant, enviable, progress; it’s no wonder to me why our talented staff are in such high demand by others.

In 2021 in red ball we stopped losing games and drew many games – despite being in good positions against Warwickshire – the ultimate winners, and Notts at home. We went through a difficult month performance wise, having played concurrent fixtures, resulting in three losses (two to Durham, one to Notts).

Last year was predictably a transitional season with many established players coming to the end of their Worcestershire careers. I am confident that a modest improvement – moving from drawing to winning – will positively affect us and rise up the table. The foundations are there for us to thrive.

In white ball, with two games to go in the Vitality Blast, we were in pole position to reach the knock out stages, comparable to previous years’ successes given the challenges of the last year. That didn’t happen in both the Vitality Blast and the Royal London Cup competition, which disappointed us all. We should aim to compete for trophies
in white ball over the coming seasons and play first division cricket. I am confident we have the talent at every level (players, coaches, support staff) to do so.

Our ongoing aim remains to improve all aspects of what we do, improve playing performance, invest in member facilities, and increase our role in the community. I hope the coming year gives us a fair crack at achieving these goals. We recognise that member facilities require improvement, which we could not do last year due to restrictions. Our new Head of Facilities, Helen Grayer, has exhaustive list of improvements to carry out as soon as possible, not helped by the current flood. We will get there in time.

We are so pleased to be supporting Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust as our Official Charity Partner for 2022. This follows our support of St Richard’s Hospice last year and Acorns Children’s Hospice in 2020.

In my report last year, I said that “2020 should teach us that only a fool would predict with certainty what may lie ahead”. That
said, I remain convinced that Worcestershire is a club that has all the key levers in place to flourish and thrive. It is a privilege to be your Chair with such an impressive collection of people working to move us as a Club forward. To our members, sponsors, supporters, and community in which we operate, I hope things get easier for us all. I look forward to seeing you at our ground for what promises to be an exciting 2022.

Thank you for your continued support.

Fanos Hira FCA

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