Meanwhile, an open regatta was being planned for 1961, possibly the first to be held on the Reservoir since 1896.
From the Birmingham Post, April 1961:
“A ‘Serpentine’ Regatta on Edgbaston Reservoir. Such is envisaged by four Birmingham rowing clubs.
To that end the four clubs have joined forces under the title of the Birmingham Boat Clubs, and on May 27th they will hold their first regatta at Edgbaston. It is to be ‘a quiet start’ with the idea of building up to an event of Serpentine importance in three or four years.”
Note: This refers to the “News of the World” sponsored Sprint Regatta on the London Serpentine. The Regatta is no longer held.
Birmingham Boat Clubs Association included BRC, Birmingham University RC, King Edward’s School BC, City of Birmingham Training College RC, Birmingham Canoe Club and Birmingham Kayak Racing Club. Its purpose was twofold: to run the regatta and to organise the building of new premises. Thus the regatta was not now run by BRC but by “Birmingham Regatta Committee”, although after a few years there was virtually no difference. The Association was disbanded in 1964, after very expensive rebuilding plans had failed to reach fruition.
The Regatta grows in stature and innovations.
From the Birmingham Post, 10th May, 1963:
“Birmingham Regatta, sponsored by The Birmingham Post, at Edgbaston Reservoir on Saturday, May 18th, will be the first in the world to use closed circuit television. A solid gold medal will be presented to the winner of the senior sculls. This is the first real gold medal in rowing.
From one common story…
“Several boats sank in the high winds which marred Birmingham Rowing Regatta at Edgbaston Reservoir today.”
To another common story…
From the Evening Mail, July, 1966:
“For the second time within a year vandals have broken into the boathouse of Birmingham Rowing Club at Rotton Park Reservoir and damaged boats worth hundreds of pounds.”
After the failure of the Boat Clubs Association, BRC took the initiative for building plans on its own and produced a realistic scheme. The problems of obtaining the necessary consents were enormous. For the Parks Department, the proposals were a big “come down” from the £45,000 two-storey brick building scheme which had previously been submitted, and discussions necessarily took a long time. After the Parks had given consent, planning permission was obtained, but before Bye Law approval was given major changes in the Building Regulations meant that the scheme had to be re-submitted. The whole process took eighteen months, but eventually the club was able to start obtaining its money, having already negotiated for a grant from the Department of Education and Science . . . .
From the Evening Mail, 22nd April, 1968:
“Vandal-proof premises, which will help to fill a gap in Birmingham’s sporting facilities, is the aim of a £10,000 appeal launched today.
The appeal is being made by Birmingham Rowing Club for the construction of a new boathouse, changing rooms and equipment at Edgbaston Reservoir.”
The appeal progressed well…
From the Birmingham Post, August 1968:
“Work is to start in October on Birmingham Rowing Club’s new £8,500 headquarters at Edgbaston Reservoir.”
Meanwhile, the club tasted its first success since 1961…
“The club finished off the rowing season by winning the novice fours trophy at Leicester Regatta on Saturday. It was the first open four-oar event that the club has won for several years.”
The boathouse was finished sufficiently to be used the following Spring. A series of vandal attacks on the roof of the old boathouse had left it weak and exactly one week before the boats were due to be moved, one of the trusses collapsed altogether, wedging a clinker four between it and the rack. The truss had to be jacked up before the boat could be moved.
The Official Opening took place later that year…
From the Birmingham Post, 29th September, 1969:
“Birmingham Rowing Club’s new building at Edgbaston Reservoir could provide the impetus for a revival in Birmingham’s reputation for the sport. Mr Adrian Cadbury said when opening the building on Saturday.
Mr Cadbury a former Olympic oarsman, said that it was “a proud moment in the history of the club”, and that the new centre would fill a gap in the city’s amenities.
Mr Cadbury was introduced by the club’s president, Mr. Dick Buckle, who spoke of the unsatisfactory premises from which the club had had to operate since the war.
He expressed his thanks to Birmingham Corporation for allowing a long enough lease for the club to be able to take full advantage of Government grants.”
With new facilities at last, the club could now start to look ahead…
From the Evening Mail, 1st October, 1969:
“Birmingham Rowing Club hope to celebrate their centenary year, 1973, by entering a crew at Henley Regatta for the first time since 1904.”
With the building scheme drawing to a close, the club also took on a new image…
From Rowing Magazine, January, 1970:
“The Birmingham RC appeal is now only £250 short of its £10,000 target. Work on the new boathouse began in October 1968 and apart from some interior decorating of the changing rooms, was completed in August. All that is now required is the landing stage, and it is for this that the last £250 is needed. The official opening was performed in September by the old Cambridge Blue, Adrian Cadbury, who was Chairman of the Appeal, The Appeal also enabled the club to purchase a set of eight oars, two pairs of sculls, and to order two new restricted sculling boats and two restricted pairs. A reciprocal arrangement with Birmingham University has made available their two new restricted fours and their second-hand eight. This is the first eight ever owned by a Birmingham club.
Car stickers hare been issued for a publicity drive, and the club now has new colours of a sleeveless dark blue vest with a white hoop. There is even a new design for the club tie.”
Meanwhile, 51 year old Sidney Genders from Sutton Coldfield was silencing his critics – and keeping BRC in the papers – by becoming the first man to row the Atlantic solo from East to West…
From the Evening Mail, 30th June 1970:
“A champagne toast will be drunk to bearded ocean tamer Sidney Genders in Birmingham on Friday night. And later the 51 year old Sutton Coldfield voyager will be made an honorary life member of Birmingham Rowing Club at a special meeting.
Last year, when Mr Genders was mapping out his Atlantic plans, the club loaned him space alongside their headquarters at Edgbaston Reservoir for him to fit out his 20ft. dory. They also made him an honorary member of the club, and advised him how to use a sliding seat for rowing.
In return the Sutton Coldfield house painter painted his nylon-sheathed boat and sculls in the club’s blue and white colours.”
The new facilities soon proved their worth and the club returned to winning form in 1971. The regatta was shelved after 1967, due to financial problems and the necessity of concentrating on the building scheme. In 1972, it was re-established, now entirely under the wing of BRC, and with a new image…
From the Evening Mail, 3rd May, 1972:
“Edgbaston Reservoir will be the setting for a Sunday regatta for the first time on June 18th.
The Continental repechage system of racing will be used. This system guarantees two opportunities of reaching the finals.”
It was also the first regatta to use four lanes.
Amongst the club’s five regatta wins in 1972 was the first ever in an eight, albeit a combined BRC/Stourport crew…
From the Sunday Mercury, 22nd August, 1972:
“…but the most impressive victory of the day was that of a combined Stourport and Birmingham eight, who beat the much-vaunted Vesta by a length and a half.”
A successful season enabled the 1969 forecast of a 1973 Henley crew to begin to look realistic…
From the Evening Mail, November 1972:
“Birmingham Rowing Club mark their centenary next year by sending their first crew to compete in the Henley Regatta fours event since 1904.
The club, with five open victories to their credit, won their highest number of trophies for 15 years in the season which has recently ended. It was the first time in that period that more than one crew had won, the first time that more than one novice crew had rowed and the first time that three entirely separate crews had competed.
The club also had their first eights victory in this time (a Birmingham/Stourport combined crew) and their highest status win in a Senior B event.”
A new boat was essential, not just for the Henley crew, but for the club in general. “Second City”, without doubt the most expensive single item of equipment ever purchased by the club, went on display at a party held at Moseley Football Club’s clubhouse in April 1973…
From Rowing Magazine, June 1973:
“Birmingham Rowing Club has recently taken delivery of a new shell coxed four, built by Geo. Sims of Eel Pie Island, and a set of six Ayling’s Eurochamp oars at a total cost of over £800.
In order to raise the necessary capital, Birmingham last year launched a Regatta Sponsorship Scheme, inviting people interested in the club to contribute any amount they chose for every race won by a Birmingham entry at open regattas. The reaction was very favourable and fortunately the season was a good one, with the result that in 1972, £400 was raised.
Birmingham borrowed the balance from its bank and hopes that the sponsorship scheme will produce enough in 1973 to pay off the overdraft.
The club recently organised an informal party for the benefit of the sponsors, when the boat, which has been named “Second City”, and oars were on display, together with a display of photographs and press cuttings.
This is the first new shell four which the club has bought for as long as anybody can remember – certainly since long before the war. The only other shell four which the club owns was bought second-hand in 1954.”
The success of the Regatta Sponsorship Scheme, coupled with BRC’s desperate need for still more boats to cater for its ever increasing membership, means that the scheme will be continued for at least two more years.
If the build-up to Henley, 1973, was not as extensive as that of 1904, it did at least include a large photograph…
From the Birmingham Post, 26th June 1973:
“Birmingham Rowing Club’s coxed four crew leave for Henley today, to start training for the Royal Regatta in which they will carry the heavy responsibility of being only the second crew in the club’s 100 year history to participate in England’s premier regatta.”
Contrasted against the 1904 Wyfold entry of seven crews, the 1973 Britannia Cup entry numbered 35, only 16 of which would go through to the main draw. Regrettably, BRC was not one of the 16…
From the Birmingham Post, 30th June, 1973:
“Birmingham Rowing Club’s coxed four suffered a four length defeat by Quintin in the Henley Royal Regatta qualifying round yesterday.
Quintin’s 8 mins. 3 secs. was the second fastest time among the 9 qualifying rounds for the Britannia Cup over a course that had been shortened as a concession to the fierce stream.
Birmingham’s margin of defeat was the smallest losing distance in the event.”
On the domestic front, BRC put out more crews in 1973 than had been seen for many years, the climax being Boston regatta in August…
From ‘The Forward Oar’ September 1973:
“This was a remarkable occasion for the club, which fielded a total entry of an eight, three fours and a sculler. With none of the oarsmen “doubling up”, 21 members rowed with a further 3 coxing. This is not only an outstanding record for the club, but also an entry which would be the envy of many other clubs to whom Birmingham has in past years, been “the poor relation”. It was also heartening to see that each of the five entries was well up to the standard in its particular event.”
We did not leave empty handed…
From the Birmingham Post, 20th August, 1973:
“Birmingham Rowing Club’s senior coxed four consisting of Jon Evans (bow), John Fazakerley, Bill Kerley and Geoff Simpson, with John Smith as cox won at Boston Regatta on Saturday after three close races.
They beat Cambridge 99 by a canvas, City of Oxford by four feet and a combined Nottingham B.C. and Nottingham and Union crew by half a length in the final to cap a good day for Birmingham.
The club was represented in five events – probably their biggest show of strength since the war – and a novice coxed four of Neil Brenton, Mark Matthews, Peter Hargraves and Steve Streather almost gave the club a double by reaching the final of their event. But after beating Nottingham and Union, Thames Tradesmen, City of Oxford and Nottingham B.C., they lost to St. Ives.”
This Senior ‘C’ crew are the club’s most recent winners, and narrowly lost two Senior ‘B’ finals after Boston.
BRC’s regatta entries have been boosted by the Women’s section, formed, fittingly, at the start of the Centenary Year. Whilst the Centenary Year did not produce more than 3 trophies, these statistics must auger well for the future…
From ‘The Forward Oar’, September 1973:
“For the statistically minded, 32 oarsmen/women/scullers plus 4 coxes (one of whom is also a sculler) competed this year in 11 different events in 4 sizes of boat at 16 regattas, producing a total of 40 entries. Between them, they raced 74 times of which they won 35 and lost 39. Taking multi-lane races into account, they beat 43 other crews/scullers and lost to 42. They reached 9 finals, losing 6 and winning 3.”
The optimism is shared by the Birmingham Mail in its report on BRC’s Centenary…
From the Birmingham Evening Mail, 24th October, 1973:
“…if there was a British rowing league Birmingham would be second division – looking for promotion.
John Frame would have looked up from his oar and nodded approval.”
“Birmingham Rowing Club’s Centenary Dinner, held at The Calthorpe Suite, Edgbaston, on Friday, 23rd November, 1973, will be attended by 85 people and will be the largest and best attended Dinner (as opposed to Dinner Dance) organised by the club for many years. Presiding will be the President, Adrian Cadbury, himself an Olympic oarsman, and the principal guests are Desmond Hill, rowing correspondent of ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and Chairman of the Youth Selection Board, and Geoffrey Hammonds, President of Hereford Rowing Club. Other guests are Jack Roberts, President of Stourport Boat Club, John Coghlan, Secretary of the West Midlands Sports Council, Stanley Pittman, General Manager of the City of Birmingham Parks Department, David Adam, Chairman of the West Midland Rowing Council, Charles Smallwood, Hon. Secretary, Moseley Football Club, Geoffrey Beane, Peter Bryan and Terry Morris, respectively of the Birmingham Evening Mail, Sunday Mercury and Birmingham Post.
Amongst many former members will be no less than eleven club captains – Undoubtedly the largesl number ever gathered together at one time. They are: Fred Long, Alan Astill, Graham Beech, Roy Woolston, Brian Simmill, Brian Vaughan, Graham Vaughan, Peter Wilding, Peter Veitch, Alan Adam, Dave McClement. A twelfth captain, George Justicz is abroad and would otherwise be present.”
In 1973 Dave McClement cut down the saxboards on Second City, to make the boat go faster, with great alacrity. It sank at Nottingham.
Shortly after the Centenary in 1973 (which was celebrated with an all male dinner) women were admitted as members. Sir Adrian Cadbury, the President of BRC, spoke at the Centenary Dinner and has chaired every AGM since 1970.
Annie Smith was one of the first women members. With her daughter Jane they represented the Club in Open events around the Midlands.
1973-74 was the first year that the club instigated an organised training regime and paid for 3 members to become qualified coaches, the first in the club.
In 1974 BRC scored more wins than any other West Midlands club.
In 1978, the first crew to race at Henley since before the first world war comprised Chris Llewellyn, Paul Warnett, Colin Loveday and John Fazakerley, who qualified for the Wyfold cup despite hitting booms at the start. Chris was blamed for two hours in the Bell pub for incompetent steering and losing the crew a place – however his persecution was premature. That night the crew slept in the Henley boat tents.
Erica Loveday was Oarswoman of the Year.
Social events included, amongst others, a Caribbean Evening and a Captain’s Party.
Membership cost £17.00 per annum (other categories £6.00 including juniors) £2.00 was deducted if fees were paid before January.
In 1978 a men’s novice crew comprising Paul Smith, Tony Page, Steve Prichard and Steve Aston won at Bewdley Sprint. Also successful that year were a Senior B four with Alan Adam, Simon Perkins, Steve Hill, Dick Melton and Karl Amatnieks. Also Simon and Dick scored double figures in wins in coxed pairs.
Oarsman of the Year – Karl Amatnieks: Runner-Up – Dave McClement. During this era Karl and Dave were regular winners in singles each scoring more than ten wins in a season.
The net profit for the regatta in 1978 was £227 – almost as much as twenty years later.
In 1979 the Captain reported that the Club had 29 regatta wins: 21 in fours.
The Social Secretary Gill Clements reported that there had been 8 events during the year, all of which had made a profit.
1979 Oarsman of the Year – John Batey; Oarswoman – Erica Loveday; Most Improved Novice – Bruce Bosworth.
In 1982 a Senior Women’s Four won 2 events at Grosvenor having been bribed by the promise of a beefburger by Chris Llewellyn (the crew consisted of Maggie Jameson, Rhian Davies, Claire Steel, Alison McConnell).
In 1983 the club purchased the Carbocraft coxed pair named J W Frame – it blistered immediately but BRC couldn’t send it back because Carbocraft went bust.
Boris Rankov was the quest speaker at the Dinner.
The Ladies Four reached the final at the National Championships. Rhian Davies represented Wales at the Home Countries in the Women’s Single – she also competed in 1984 and 1985.
Unfortunately 1983 also saw the death of a great club stalwart Vice President Jack Hammonds who had been on the bank coaching novices well past the age of 80.
Oarsman of the Year in 1983 was Gary Harris – runner-up (again) Rob Hampton.
Net assets of the Club were £1245.
In 1984 the Club purchased Wispa a lightweight Janousek coxed four for women to which Sir Adrian Cadbury donated £1,000 towards the £4,000 cost. The logo on the hull of the boat to circumvent ARA advertising regulations was a revolutionary innovation.
In the same year Geoff Davies organised a Champagne Party sponsored by William & Glyns Bank who donated £250 towards the boat fund. Geoff Davies was Veteran of the Year for 1984 and was a member of a highly successful veterans squad which included Tim Cherry, John Frizby, George Gray, Alan Towle, Jack Roberts, coxed by Geoff’s wife Bobby.
Rhian Davies was national champion in a composite double and the winner of the Home Countries single in Ireland.
Also in 1984 the last BRC Senior Men’s Four to appear at Henley (including Gary Harris, Steve Prichard, Mike Horrocks, Mike Gilles) made it through to Friday in the Wyfold.
Subscriptions were now £45 for full membership.
In 1985 Gary Harris won Novice Sculls on the Cam (at Cambridge Autumn), Rhian Davies won the National Championships Single Sculls and competed at several international regattas.
Chris Llewellyn received the Appreciation Award from the Birmingham Sports Advisory Council.
Novice of the Year – Tom Doherty.
Notes from 1985 Minutes:
“The basis of a development plan has been discussed in Committee. Bryan Griffin and Bruce Bosworth have been requested to form a sub-committee for the development of the reservoir and the club.”
In 1986 BRC had its first Novice Coxed Fours win for six years. Crew members included the great Derek Campbell. Moose Horrocks reached the quarter-finals in the Diamond Sculls at Henley. Rhian Davies represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games.
No Oarswoman of the Year, quote from the AGM Minutes “…no-one deserves the award!”
Novice of the Year 1986 “…in the Captain’s opinion the most improved novice – complete beginner, no neck, now Senior C + l the indomitable Derek Campbell.”
In 1986 Tim Cherry reported to the AGM on the “Long Range Development” options for the club. They were;
(i) stay as we are
(ii) expand on the present site
(iii) seek association with the Midland Sailing Club
The latter option was preferred by the Committee.
Also very important, another piece of equipment arrives – the launch.
In 1987 at the Leyland Daf Powersprints Regional Heat at Evesham, BRC won “Club of the Day” and £250 – due mainly to the Women’s Four and Mike Horrocks who won their respective classes. In the National Finals at Bristol, Mike Horrocks came 5th and the Women’s four (Maggie Jameson, Diane Horrocks, Louise Moss, Helen Cole, cox Simon Freeman) came 2nd a great result.
Also in 1987 BRC had a record 4 Novice Fours wins including Karen Jackson and Clive Heron. Clive was Joint Novice of the Year.
In 1988 the Club won £300 at the Daf Powersprints Regional event and the Women’s Four came 3rd in the National Finals, winning a set of blades. Mike Horrocks was, as the AGM Minutes state, “off-colour and coughed his way to 9th place.” Observers noted that he had odd riggers on his single – and indeed one had been borrowed from Rob Hampton without adjustment.
The Women’s Four won bronze at the National Championships (Maggie Jameson, Diane Horrocks, Sue Welch, Audrey Wedderburn, coxed by Liz Norman).
Lee Clarke began a startling career winning his first J13 sculling events at Bewdley and Bristol.
Also in 1988 the first consolidated Development Plan was presented to-the Council and British Waterways Board by BRC and MSC. The report stated; “The development plan includes; the joining together of MSC, BRC, the Canoe Club and the University Rowing Club to be housed in the buildings of MSC to form a Water Sports Centre.”
In 1989 the Women’s Four won the Regional Daf Sprints (again) – in the final the women came 2nd winning another set of blades!
Also a Women’s Veteran Four comprising the all-conquering Maggie Jameson, Helen Cole, Sandy McClement, Jo Manisier, cox Liz Norman won the first world veterans championship.
Silver and two bronze medals were won at the National Championships.
Also in 1989 Sir Adrian Cadbury appeared on “Down Your Way” and chose BRC as one of his six “stop-offs” where he met Tim Cherry and Gary Harris.
Oarswomen – Elaine Harte and Karen Jackson; Oarsman – Lee Clarke.
In 1990 the Captain’s report at the AGM stated: “This year I have the pleasure of reporting the most successful year in the club’s history. A record number of open event wins including our first gold medal at the National Championships.”
The Club had 75 open wins. Cal MacLennan rowed for Isis, Leander and Great Britain U23.
Successful crews during the year:
- Diane Horrocks & Sue Welch Gold L2- National Championships
- Bronze 2- National Championships
- Rhian Prichard (née Davies) Silver 2x National Championships
- Bronze 2x National Championships
- Raced at Lucerne
- Mike Knudsen 8 wins in single scull from novice
- Lee Clarke 11 junior sculls wins
- Cyril Sargent, Simon Hale, 6 wins at S14+
- Tom Doherty, Chris Edger, cox Liz Norman
- John Frisby Gold Vet D 2x National Veteran Championships
It truly was an outstanding year! At Docklands, BRC won 8 medals (3 gold).
Perhaps the most incredible win was Mike Horrocks – “two weeks later at Nottinghamshire regatta Mike Horrocks won SA2 Singles by 500 metres or more and attributed his success to a hearty breakfast!”
To finish it all off, Rhian represented Wales and Diane and Sue represented England at the Home Countries at Nottingham.
Hamish Robertson was appointed boatman.
Oarsman of the Year – Mike Knudsen.
In 1991 Mike Knudsen raced in the Diamond Sculls at Henley in only his second competitive season. Lee Clarke won 5 regattas, 4 Heads and a bronze at the National Championships. Chris Edger scores a total of eight single sculling wins.
John Frisby won another gold at the National Veterans.
Maggie Jameson and Sheenagh Groves won 6 events in pairs and doubles and a bronze at the National Championships in Open Coxless Pairs. They went on to represent England at the Home Countries in Ireland. Sheenagh won her novice sculls in an Open Doubles event at Marlow!
Oarsman of the Year 1991 – Chris Edger; Oarswoman of the Year – Maggie Jameson (she was Oarswoman of the Year 3 times!)
In 1992 Maggie Jameson and Sheenagh Edger (née Groves) won 10 times and won gold at the Home Countries Regatta at Strathclyde in the coxed Pair event. Helen Bruce won a silver at the National Championships and represented England at Strathclyde in the Single Sculls.
The best men’s crew in 1992 comprised the Reverend Mark Stobart and Tim Grimsdale who won a pot at Bridgnorth. As the AGM Minutes state: “They were the only crew to train consistently and to be seen doing the unpleasant miles of the Harborne run.” They were both Oarsman of the Year. Tim was most improved novice. Alicia El Haj was Oarswoman of the Year having won Docklands.
In 1993 the highlight was Rhian Prichard’s appearance in TV’s Gladiators.
Simon concluded an excellent captaincy with his 3rd outstanding speech at the annual dinner. This rounded off a great rowing career which included a great win at Dartmouth!
In 1994 Rhian Prichard won silver and bronze in doubles at the National Championships and represented Wales at the Commonwealth Regatta in Canada.
The Regatta regrettably made a £600 loss. The water level of the reservoir was the subject of much discussion.
The Birmingham Rowing Club Members Association was inaugurated with leading lights Simon Cole, Peter Veitch, John Fazackerley providing a conduit for members old and new.
The top men’s four going from Senior 3 to Senior 1 included Neil Freeman, Bryn Thomas, Adrian Bill and Richard Hall, cox Michelle Griggs. Their culinary skills nearly exceeded their talents on the water.
In 1995 Hamish Roberton and Chris Edger had a fine season in pairs racing, winning Monmouth Senior 1 by one foot!
Stuart Redden scored a fine bronze in Jl5 sculls at National Schools and in 1996 Stuart and David Craister had great success in sculls and doubles including a 3rd place at the junior inter-regional championships. Stuart was Oarsman of the Year. Dermot Reilly was Novice of the Year.
The club thrives as plenty of new members including David Brookes, Alan Humphreys, Martin Gill bolster men’s rowing. Men’s novice wins in 1997 and 1998 point to a bright future.
On the women’s side Cary Hendron, Sarah Weedon, Naomi Carpenter, Lucy Peel did well winning a couple of events. Sarah and Naomi were Oarswomen of the Year in 1997.
In 1997 Mark Bircumshaw became captain and continued to build the club with help from sponsors such as the generous IMCO Plastics. The junior section thrived with Stuart and David leading the way.
Meanwhile both Gary Harris and Chris Llewellyn had become directors of the newly incorporated Amateur Rowing Association Ltd and Chris continued as the West Midlands Divisional Representative.
This document does not pretend to be a history of Birmingham Rowing Club, for the club does not possess the material to compile a history, which would, in any case, have to be much more detailed. It is intended more as a “sketch” of the club’s one hundred years. It mentions only some of those great names in the history of the club, some of whom we would wish were joining us for the Centenary Dinner: Baron Davenport, John Frame, Sidney Johnson, Ken Tinegate, Austin Woodward and Walter Williams. It omits reference to the many who in their own way have helped to keep the club alive, often in very difficult circumstances.