The dust has finally settled on my first season with the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees and what a few months it has been. This is a club with a great history and to be able to help write some new chapters has been a real joy. I’d just like to take some time to say thank you to all the people who made this happen.
Firstly, to all the players who iced for the Bees this season and helped lead us to our most successful season in 11 years. Whilst we weren’t able to achieve our ultimate end goal of silverware, I’m sure everyone will agree that it has been a great learning experience, with plenty to take forward in the coming seasons. It has been great to see some exciting talent continue to develop with other familiar, reliable faces also getting to experience success. I’d like to personally wish Scott Spearing all the best with his retirement from the sport as well – he has been a loyal servant to the Bees and I know he will be missed by many at the Hive.
As ever, I’m grateful to call on the support of a fantastic backroom staff, who are there for every need of the players and myself in order to achieve the best possible performance we can on the ice. Adrian Worship, Matt Plested, Drew Poulson, Jock Hutchinson, Tony Skinns, Steve Merry and the ever-present Brian Miller gave up plenty of hours to help us try and achieve our goals – I’m delighted to have worked alongside them all season. I’d also like to thank Jason Notaro and David Spalton for their support in driving the equipment van to away games this season. ‘Photographer Kevin Slyfield has captured all the big moments at the Hive this season – as well as our weekly winners of the Blues Smokehouse sponsored Chuck-a-Puck and Design by Detail sponsored Chuck-a-Duck’
A big thanks also needs to go out to all our match-night off-ice officials, who give up their game-nights to ensure that the matches go ahead without a hitch. Simon King, Nick King, Lucy Spalton, Ivan White, Matt Whiddett, Mark Haterley, Peter Litwin, Libby Merry and our DJ Scott Collier are the unsung heroes around the Hive. I’d also like to thank Steph Sellers for all her help and support over the years as she steps back from her duties at the end of this campaign.
One of the biggest highlights for me has been working alongside Gemma Plowright and Dave Williams to build our Schools Programme. When I took over, I felt it was key that we reached out into the community to help build the future of our club. What Gemma and Dave have done is far beyond any expectations, with thousands of new fans attending games for the first time – many turning into fully flung hockey fanatics through school visits and beyond. If this is what they’ve been able to achieve in year one – then I can’t wait for what’s to come in year two with our continued support and gratitude for what they do, alongside their band of match-night volunteers including Kate Jones, who have received glowing praise from numerous attendees. Ian Scurr has been co-ordinating things superbly with the tickets for our school zone attendee before the game, a task I’m thankful for him doing diligently and I’d also like to thank Gary Skeggs and AVSS for their ongoing support.
I think you will all agree that the media output from the club this season has been a revelation. Mark Denholm’s work on the new website gives us a professional outlook to current and potential customers, from both a fan and corporate perspective, with some really strong growth and engagement across social media too. Adrian Parsons continues to be the envy of many across the league, with his work on Bees TV, bringing the game night experience to fans throughout the week and I’m sure many of you have enjoyed catching up on highlights, whether in your spare time or across the local television channels, with Meridian and BBC South attracting potential new fans to the sport. As well as his work as the voice of Bees TV, Graham Bell continues to be my right-hand man in many aspects and I appreciate all that he does to support me and the club. It has been great to welcome Andy Turner into the fold as well, his graphics work is second to none and has been a real boost for our output, importantly on game nights in bringing a fully functioning scoreboard system to life, which I know he is keen to build upon next season. I’d also like to thank our local media partners Bracknell News, Wokingham Paper and BBC Radio Berkshire for their continued support as well.
Our fantastic supporters club have been brilliant too, raising over £20,000 through their endeavours. Our club shop is the envy of many throughout the league, with loyal volunteers helping with the match-night sales across all products. I’d like to pay particular thanks to Paul, Ash, Flo, Fiona, Becci, Katrina, Ben, Harleigh, Rachel, Liz, Sam, Sarah, Ali, Becca and Nicole for their efforts throughout the campaign – I hope you get to enjoy some rest over the summer months and get recharged ready to go next season. Thank you also to Carol Miller who has been keeping a close eye on the bank account.
Building a relationship with the John Nike Leisuresport Group has been key since I took over and, I’m happy to say, we are beginning to see the fruits of that labour come to the fore. I’m sure the fans will agree the addition of the scoreboard and netting has improved the match-night experience at the Hive immensely, with more work still to be done as well, led by Justin Wilson. It has also been great to welcome Sue Nike along to the Hive on many occasions this season and I hope she is proud of the legacy we are continuing to build for her family.
I’ve greatly enjoyed working alongside our corporate partners as well. The club has been blessed to enjoy fruitful long-standing relationships with the likes of Chris Riley (Berkshire Cycles), Paul Newberry (Tofoo), Paul Norris (Crowthorne Insurance), David Andrews (Blues Smokehouse) and Sanj Sobje (Thames Fiat), who provided us with cars that buzzed around town. We have also seen plenty of new faces come on board this season, including Mark Evans (Hire Direct) and Courtney Coaches alongside our army of player sponsors, featuring old friends the Money Guardian and Beyond the Download. I’m extremely hopeful we will be continuing our relationships with all our sponsors and really appreciate their involvement this past campaign.
It’s also a big thanks to Chrissie McCarthy, Katie Eleftheriou , Sharon Robinson, Erin O’Brien and Cat Bell for their help in the corporate area and box office reception throughout the season – making the best possible match-night experience for all our guests and visitors.
I’d also like to thank the directors of the club for their support throughout the campaign. We had plenty of work to do over the months leading into the season to get things set up, but Stuart Robinson, Rob Lamey and Rich Dobney have been hugely supportive of all the efforts this campaign. We all have the best interests of the club at heart and, with the solid foundations now in place, can’t wait to kick on next season.
Finally, and most importantly, to the great fans of the Bees. It has been a real pleasure getting to know so many of you over the course of the season – from friendly chats in the shop to being stopped in the street – seeing the passion you have for the club helped drive me on. That’s not to say the job is done though – I’m determined to deliver even more success for this club, both on and off the ice. To see the pride each and every one of you have for the black, white and gold rewarded is my aim – I hope you’re all ready to continue our journey together next season and beyond.
I’m sure we’ll have plenty of news for you over the coming weeks and months but, for now, thank you for all your support this season and have a great summer.