It is my pleasure to report on another year of positive development in men’s lacrosse in the South of England.
There have been numerous highlights, I cannot hope to mention all of them in this report but they are all equal parts in the jigsaw of success of South lacrosse.
Firstly, I would like to thank all of my colleagues who have served on the Executive Committee for the last season.
We have been fortunate to have a consistent and reliable team serving SEMLA for many years and their dedication and experience has helped to rebuild SEMLA from a low point of 16 Clubs and only one second team in 1998 to the position where we will have, subject to the AGM’s acceptance of the proposed new Clubs, a total of 39 Clubs and 54 teams
I gave an appreciation of the individual members of the Committee in last year’s Report and won’t repeat it again although each of them fully deserves the thanks of all the members of SEMLA.
However, it is important that the Association looks to the future and seeks to add new and younger members to the Committee whenever possible.
I’d like to begin by formally congratulating Spencer on their unique achievements over the last season.
For the second consecutive season they have won both the Premiership and East One League titles.
The first team won the Senior Flags for the fifth season in a row matching the previous five-times run of Purley and Kenton with only the six times in a row record set by Lee in 1970-75 still be beaten. Maybe next season?
The Second team won the Intermediate Flags and the Third team won the East 2 Division title.
This is a quite incredible haul of titles for a Club, possibly the largest of any Club in a single season, unless someone knows better!
Spencer also gave Stockport a close run in the National Club Championship losing 10-6 and proving that the gap between North and South is closing.
I’d like to congratulate Simon on being selected for the European Championships in Budapest this summer alongside three other SEMLA referees, Greg Irwin, Mark Buckley and Hazel Wisbey, congratulations to each of them.
This will the eleventh consecutive Europeans that Simon has refereed at, a record unequalled by any other referee, nor is ever likely to be now that they are held every four years.
This is on top of Simon’s other records of being selected for six World Championships and refereeing twenty-five consecutive Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity games, a quarter of all the Varsity games that have ever been played undoubtedly another unique and unrepeatable achievement
New Clubs and Universities
It is clearly a great success that SEMLA continues to add new Clubs and teams to the Association.
The boom in University lacrosse is having the hoped for effect in stimulating both new clubs founded by graduates and also attracting University teams to play Saturday games with SEMLA.
It is also adding greatly to the numbers of new players looking to join existing clubs after graduation.
Inevitably this is causing a lop-sided expansion in certain areas, such as London, where several clubs are being formed and others are considering adding fourth teams to accommodate the inflow of players.
The new inflow of players is also, in my opinion, raising the general standard of play in all of the divisions as the graduates bring new ideas and energy to training and games.
However, it is an undeniable fact that other Clubs are recruiting few or no new graduates.
It is somewhat inevitable that due to the enormous number of jobs that London offers to graduates that a large number will gravitate to clubs in London often to join friends from the same University.
There are no simple methods of balancing out the phenomenon of lots of graduate players which until recently was only a pipe-dream. It is unlikely that any attempt to force new players to specific clubs would not work and would be more likely to cause players to stop playing.
The competition for first team places may encourage the formation of other new clubs to accommodate players who do not want to be stuck at a lower standard than they believe themselves capable of achieving.
Another suggestion is that in conjunction with the ELA, we should increase and improve the awareness amongst graduates of the opportunity to continue playing after University and make them more aware of the spread of Clubs across the South and the UK.
All Clubs must raise the standard of their internet presence, both through websites and social media.
It is hardly surprising if a club does not advertise itself in the right way that they will not find many graduates knocking on their clubhouse doors.
There is also an increasing imbalance in the numbers of Clubs in the East and West Divisions. While geography determines the time to travel to games and will therefore always play a major part in how the Divisions are formed, it is clearly in the Association’s long term interests to encourage the long term stability and growth of the West.
For next season, and after consultation with the Committee and the Clubs, the Fixture Secretary will be introducing the ‘Ladder System’ which was used to good effect in the Association in the early 2000s to ensure that more games are played more regularly which in turn encourages more players to stay in the game.
SEMLA has identified funds from the increased ELA funding to provide support for new clubs in the West from next season. If there is a suitable group of players with the commitment to form a Club, SEMLA can offer greater assistance than previously. Although by no means an immediate solution, it is hoped that this may help to fill a few gaps in the map and make travel to games easier over the next few seasons.
British National Championships
I am sure that all SEMLA players will wish me to congratulate Rob Clarke and his management team on the achievements of the South teams at the BNCs.
A fourth and sixth place finish for the two teams is a great result and shows that the developments under Rob and the other South managers over the last two decades have continued to push the South into serious contention with the other regions.
I am sure that with the plans that Rob has for the team we can expect to see further progress in the future.
Injury at the South Sixes
As most people will have heard there was a near fatality at the South Sixes due to a shot hitting Will Stott on the heart area.
I am pleased to report that due to the prompt attendance of the ambulance crew, Will was saved and has recovered fully. I also wish Darren Novell a full and swift recovery from the injury that he suffered at the Sixes which was the only reason that the ambulance was already on site and may be the only reason that we did not have a complete disaster.
The ELA have been fully involved and are awaiting the recommendations of the ELA’s Chief Medical Officer as to how future risks of similar events can be mitigated.
On a personal level, although it is not required by the rules, I would like to implore all players to wear shoulder and sternum pads to give themselves extra protection across the heart area.
Next season will see the introduction of individual registrations which, in my opinion at least, is long overdue. It is the standard method of registration in every sport that I have heard of and will provide SEMLA with a greatly increased income to help to further develop the game across the South.
Our sport has struggled to survive and more recently has grown enormously on ridiculously small amounts of money compensated for by vast amounts of free time from volunteers at Association and Club level.
Players expect more from their sport these days, amongst many other factors they expect good facilities, good officiating and good awards and trophies to recognise their achievements. However, none of that comes cheaply and players and Clubs must recognise that more money must go into the sport if more is to be provided.
I apologise to all the Clubs and players whose fantastic achievements during the season have not been mentioned.