Quite a lot has happened since my last blog, starting with the 100-year celebration of the Abbeydale Sports Club, to which I was invited by club chairman, Richard Ibbotson. This took the form of a lunch at the restaurant at the ground, with the Rt Hon Richard Caborn, former MP for Sheffield Central for over 26 years, as after-lunch speaker. Richard’s time in Government included six years as Minister for Sport, and he is a lifelong Sheffield United fan, so he has plenty of material to work with on these occasions. It was also good to see Richard Kettleborough again. Since I first met him in 2003, he has developed a great reputation in the world of umpiring, having won the ICC International Umpire of the Year award of several occasions. I am sure that Richard will not mind me saying that his success proves once again that poachers can make first class gamekeepers. A big thanks too to Josh Varley, whose company I enjoyed throughout the meal. 
The following day, I spent my much-anticipated afternoon in Doncaster with Duncan Jones. Mike Linwood made the trip across from Hull with me, and we met one of Duncan’s friends at the Draughtsman’s Alehouse on Doncaster Station, where we were served by Iain Robb. I had very little experience of drinking in Doncaster, but we went to four very good real ale pubs – in addition to being good company, Duncan is a very good guide and ambassador for Doncaster’s drinking establishments! 
On the following Friday it was our most enjoyable and successful League presentation dinner. The highlight of the evening was the contribution of our guest speaker, Robert Croft, who entertained us with some very amusing anecdotes about his days with Glamorgan and England – I can imagine what a character he was in the dressing room! Last year, our speaker was Geoff Miller, widely recognised as the top cricket speaker on the after dinner circuit, but for my money, Robert was better – he will certainly be a hard act to follow. 
I presented the chairman’s trophy to Josh Varley and the certificates to three new Hall of Fame inductees. None knew in advance, and it was brilliant to see their faces as the light dawned – the same applying to Andy Harrison when he realised that Wickersley had won the Club of the Year award. His expression will live long in my memory! 
I would like to thank Alex Fletcher and Steve Ward for all the work they put into making the dinner a success. Alex did a great job as compere on the night, and Steve, as ever, works away tirelessly in the background to ensure that things get done. Thanks too to Brian Whitehead, for providing us with an excellent visual record of the evening. Alex and Steve are now sitting down to review what went well and what was less good, so that we can make next year’s event even better. If you have any thoughts, please tell us, using the contact us facility below. . 
Both at the Abbeydale event, and at the dinner, I was approached by a number of people with concerns about the arrangements for our club second XIs. Since my last blog, when the SYSCL had indicated that second XIs would not be allowed to compete in their Championship after next season, David Ward and I have agreed that there will be a meeting in the New Year to discuss the issues and look at possible solutions. I have said that I would like four of our club representatives to be involved, and I will contact them once the date for the meeting is arranged. 
On the Thursday of the week after the dinner, we had a meeting of the Premier Leagues Management Board at Darrington. The ECB Head of Recreational Cricket, Paul Bedford, came up from London to talk to us about future ECB priorities, funding arrangements, County Partnership Agreements, and other topical issues. There is at present a lack of detail around a lot of this, and I asked for information that we can pass on to our clubs. I note that since the meeting, ECB have announced Dynamo Cricket, the stage after All Stars for 8-11 year olds. Gareth Davis will be very happy to provide more information to clubs on this. We also learn that the revised Clubmark programme, with a toned-down version for clubs at lower levels, will not now be introduced in time for 2020. I will continue to keep our clubs informed of any information as we get it. 
Mentioning that meeting reminds me of the awful weather we experienced in November. I know that this has caused misery for a lot of people in South Yorkshire, where some cricket clubs have also been flooded. It is soul-destroying to see what you have worked hard to put in place ruined – not to mention the inconvenience and expense. Those affected have my deepest sympathies. I am pleased that the YCB has again been proactive in offering support to clubs. Let us hope that we will return to more normal weather now, and that our groundsmen get some decent weather for their essential work. 
On the following Monday, my friends and I had one of our afternoon sessions in the Goodmanham Arms. The cosy atmosphere in this country village pub, with its lamps, candles and wood fires, not to mention the top quality beer and the good company, would brighten any dull and damp afternoon, and this was no exception. We have set 20 January as the date for our next visit, so there is something to look forward at that bleak time of year. 
Later that week, I learned for certain what I had expected for some time, that 4 Probate & Wills would not be able to continue to sponsor our league in future seasons. This means that we must redouble our efforts to find a sponsor for the future. I have prepared a one-pager to put in front of potential sponsors, and have committed to following up any initial contacts. If anyone has any suggestions of possible sponsors, please let me know. 
On the Friday, it was the bi-monthly meeting of the Hull KR Community Trust Board. Our trust manger of five years, Helen, is leaving to set up her own business, and we are now recruiting a replacement and have a transition plan to ensure all necessary arrangements are in place in the meantime. Helen will be a very hard act to follow – so many qualities are needed to manage the various different stands of work, the funding applications, the army of volunteers, and the relationship with the club itself. Helen has done all these brilliantly and we would not be where we are today without her dedication. 
I have done a lot of work this week on our website. I have updated the document library and the Hall of Fame section; changed the gallery to a selection of photos that give a flavour of 2019, and tidied other bits up here and there. Please have a look, and let me have any feedback! 
This Wednesday, I went across to Leeds for a teatime drink with Kirsty’s work team. We went in the Duck & Drake on Kirkgate – a real old-fashioned beer and music pub with a great range of real ales in top condition. It has been a while since I have been in but it will not be as long before I go back! Then, yesterday, my cousin came over from Gildersome whilst his wife is at their daughter’s in St Albans. He had not been drinking in Hull’s Old Town before, so I took him in what I think are some of its best pubs, and he was very impressed. 
Next week marks the start of a number of home improvements that we are having done, work that will continue into the New Year, but I also have a Rovers Heritage outreach event, an invigilation session, an East Riding Umpires meeting, and I am helping Gavin decorate his large, newly-roofed conservatory. 
When I was a little lad, the end of the year always meant New Year’s resolutions, which would never be kept, or New Year wishes. It may be a bit early, but I have a (seemingly impossible) New Year’s wish – not as Kirsty, with her bleak sense of humour, suggested, that all three of my sporting teams avoid relegation (great though that would be) – but that there could be more tolerance in the world. There altogether too much intolerance and disrespect for the those with different points of view (a favourite columnist of mine thinks that this started with Brexit, but I think that issue has just shown the extent of the problem). Most people agree that it is unacceptable to make homophobic or racist remarks, but it seems to be quite ok to publicly abuse people for their beliefs and allegiances – political or sporting, for example. I think that is completely wrong – everyone is entitled to their opinions, to express them in a reasonable way, and to be treated with respect. All too often people are castigated for their beliefs, but issues are rarely just 'black and white' – there are usually shades of grey. 
Having got that off my chest, all that remains is to wish everyone a very happy Christmas, and a healthy and successful New Year! Winter well! 
Till 2020, 
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