by Neale McMaster
Most people will be aware that in the off-season, the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders (BBR) and the Milton Keynes Pathfinders (MKP) merged. There were some eyebrows raised, a lot of voices for and against it, and some questioned if there really was a need for it. As the man who initiated the merger and organised it with help from both sides, I took it upon myself to write this article as a commentary on what happened, why it happened, issues faced along the way, and finally, has it worked:
What Happened and Why
There was a very unique set of circumstances involved here that I feel helped this to go through. The first of which is that to all intents and purposes I was still regarded as an outsider; I was neither for BBR nor MKP. I had come down after spending eight years with East Kilbride Pirates, working both on and off the field with that club, and specifically Amanda and Spoonie, who I think, we will all agree are leaders in this sport in how a club should be run. I had been involved with BBR for two years, one as a player and one as a coach; but I had never been involved in how the club was run.
At the end of the 2013, BBR Chairman Tony Law stepped down from the club; along with the entire coaching staff. This was not as it seems a mass exodus, more a lot of people just at stages in their lives where they couldn’t commit the time to doing this properly, something I can relate to now!
So at this point, an EGM was called, and I stood up to be Chairman; that was passed and small committee was formed. I cannot emphasise enough here, the Blue Raiders were dead at this stage, there was no hope of saving them and being anything other than cannon fodder for other teams, something I was not willing to do. So, in the same meeting, I proposed to the BBR players, that they let me talk to MKP about a possible merging of the two clubs. I thought this was a good idea because
- There was a distinct lack of coaches on both sides
- There was a lack of committed players on both sides
- The was a lack of off field staff, which resulted in neither team being run properly, just a lot of fire fighting going on, rather than any club development.
- There clearly wasn’t a shortage of talented athletes in the area, but neither club had a product to attract these athletes, or the coaching staff and training ethic to keep them interested.
- Both clubs had went 5 & 5 the previous year, and combined had made something like 4 playoff appearances in 15 years, so both clubs were pretty equal in terms of quality.
This draws to end the history of what happened and why. This article is not meant to detail the ins and outs of our particular merger, but more to detail some of the key points to think about. If you are part of a club, with a nearby neighbour, look at the five points above and ask the following two questions:
- Are we in the same boat?
- Do we want to get better, on and off the field?
If you’re a yes to either/both of those questions, let’s keep going.