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Club hockey file: Birmingham and Yardley merge for city future

City of Birmingham celebrate PIC: Mark Woodward Photography

In our Club File series we’ve heard from Gloucester City on momentum after pandemic, Eastcote on insurance issues, Wakefield HC on how the volunteer-run club is coping with life in lockdown and Leicester on  pitch positives and NHS members.

Here, Jeevan S Chagger, English hockey’s youngest club chair, tells us how Yardley formed its merger with City of Birmingham and life after the pandemic 

How has the pandemic affected Yardley as a hockey club from first lockdown?

We were into the final two games when the lockdown was enforced, and with relegation all but confirmed, it was a matter of proving a point, having narrowly lost games in the second half of our season. It had been a difficult season, losing our captain for three months in the first game due to an injury, and then maintaining a core of nine players, two of which were 16-years-old having been promoted into the first team.

Had a merger always been on the cards despite the pandemic?

As early as October 2019. Last June, City of Birmingham HC was founded and very quickly a partnership was established to allow some of our ladies in the badgers to progress into women’s hockey, in return the ladies helping us with men interested in hockey. The lockdown has made it a bit difficult to finalise the merger but forward planning has allowed us to make timely and swift action to address areas. It’s just a shame we could not bow out playing the final home game as Yardley at the end of March.

What are the challenges facing the club through all this?

We had a plan in place to run sessions and a marketing campaign in place to be able to target individuals who we hoped would join us. Now we are shifting our focus onto marketing and reaching out to new players. We are also hoping to be able to have two men’s teams but with lockdown, it is possible we may not be in a position to do so.

Are there any long-term dangers such as loss of membership?

Long term, our merger may mean that we lose some players on the way. It is understandable, in an ideal world, you keep all your players and build on it. There is a danger that we are unable to continue building on the great efforts put into our youth sections, which could impact our teams in years to come. But this merger brings more optimism and security to us.

When the club can finally play, what issues do you anticipate?

One of the biggest issues we may face is mental health. Lockdown has placed restrictions on so many and with many having to shield and work from home, we know how much of an impact this will have on individuals. From specialising in health and wellbeing in my day job, I understand the impact. We must have strategies in place, service available and personnel trained to be able to support others in this situation, thus we have been sharing CPD courses amongst members to be able to make one another more informed.

Jeevan, you were one of the youngest chairs in the country at Yardley. Where will you sit with CoB now?

During discussions, we have agreed that City of Birmingham HC Ladies will continue to be run as it was in 2019/20 with Alan Loveridge remaining chair. As Yardley HC changes name and forms the Men’s and Junior sections, I will remain chair of these sections.

Jeevan after winning the ‘Rising Star award 2018/19’ at the England Hockey Awards 2019 PIC: MATTHEW LEWIS

How important is the 2022 Commonwealth Games now that the club has merged?

Now that the club is one, the Commonwealth Games are important for us. Yardley HC agreed to carry forward its 88-year history. For us, the name change is a full cycle, having been called Birmingham Municipal in 1932 when we formed. 2022 will prove to be a special year where we celebrate 90 years of hockey and we would like to maximise Birmingham hockey during the Commonwealth year.

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