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Special General Meeting – An Opportunity for Change

AGMDerbyshire’s Annual General Meeting takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 27th March 2013.

Promotion, a trophy for the first time since 1993, a modest profit and the signing of Shivnarine Chanderpaul will doubtless have occupied the minds of Members ahead of the meeting, but it is the Special General Meeting (SGM) that follows which will be of huge significance both internally and externally in relation to the way our Club is governed in the future.

For a month, Members have been voting on a proposal that, if approved by the requisite percentage of those who vote, will make the most significant changes to who runs our Club, and how it is run, since our formation in 1870, since when the General Committee has consisted of Members without any defined role, qualifications or responsibilities. The earliest records available show that Derbyshire was traditionally governed by a committee of over 20 people, and even as recently as the 1970s there were 27 Members on the committee.

The ballot closes at 5pm on Tuesday 26th March 2013, so there remains an opportunity for anyone who has still to vote to do so.

This SGM will be Derbyshire’s 6th since 1978, but the first since 1999. Interestingly, the SGM in 1978 was convened for similar reasons to the latest meeting; Members were then asked to agree to a reduction in the size of the General Committee from 22 to 15. The proposal was carried.

The last SGM, in 1999, centred on a motion of no confidence in the General Committee and was successful, requiring the committee of the day to resign en bloc following a protracted dispute centred on cricket management.

In 1980, 1,564 Members voted on a proposal about the amount of cricket to be played at Chesterfield. This was the highest number of votes cast in any ballot within the Club in living memory and was indicative of the passion and interest in the subject matter. However, it still only represented 41% of the total membership; what Derbyshire would give today for a membership of 3,800.

The late Brian Holling, who would subsequently become Chairman of Cricket and a Vice President, proposed that a minimum of 19 days cricket be played at Queen’s Park with effect from the 1981 season. The SGM was held in the Grandstand Hotel – now the site of The Gateway – and was attended by 451 Members. The vote – which included both postal and those cast on the night – was 703 ‘For’ and 861 ‘Against’.

The die was cast; it was no longer sustainable to play half – or more – of our home cricket away from the Derby headquarters, and although the Chesterfield Festival is now successful and popular, the result that night meant that Queen’s Park would only ever be an outground in the future.

A rather more explosive SGM took place in the Derby pavilion a week before Christmas in 1983. Chaired by the Duke of Devonshire with 381 Members present, the room now designated as the Jackson and Gladwin Suite was overcrowded, to say the least. It was in the days before the smoking ban and the atmosphere was both stifling and edgy.

The SGM had arisen as the result of 4 committee members who walked out of a committee meeting in September 1983 in a dispute over Club management. The remaining committee members argued that the walk-out had actually been interpreted as a resignation, whilst the 4 ‘rebels’ argued that they had only been taking a stance on a specific issue, and certainly not resigning.

Weeks of negotiation and discussion failed to resolve the matter so the membership was asked to determine the outcome. More than 20 Members spoke on the subject and it was clear that the incident had divided the membership with several being heckled while speaking, and one addressing the meeting in tears. When the result of the vote was announced, by a majority of 299 to 228, the 4 committee members were deemed to have resigned.

The 1997 SGM was a brief one designed to change the Club from being solely a members club to an Industrial and Provident Society with the change being approved unanimously.

Derbyshire’s current committee presented the details of the 2013 governance proposals in the form of a letter, a formal proposal document, a new set of Club Rules, two forums at Derby and Chesterfield and additional information on the website resulting from questions at the forums. For the proposal to become accepted with the formation of a new Supervisory Board and the implementation of the new rules, 66% of the votes cast must be in favour of the proposal.

It remains to be seen whether or not the membership has been convinced of the proposals for change, but if, after the results are announced at the SGM on Wednesday, the proposal is carried, the first Supervisory Board meeting will take place as soon as the SGM ends and a new era of management will begin.

The website will contain details of the SGM and all other relevant information on Wednesday evening.

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