Ask not what your rugby club can do for you

9th October 2012

It’s time to put another name to another face in our ‘Meet the Management Team’ feature, only this time introductions aren’t really necessary. It’s time to meet the Chairman of Macclesfield Rugby Club, Peter Harper. Pete has become a kind of fixture around the Club over the last 4 decades, and has served the team as both a player and administrator, but what do you really know about him, or his background? Well, we managed to grab a few words with him earlier this week, and what’s abundantly clear is that Pete is a passionate Club man with the blue blood of Macclesfield Rugby clearly running through his veins. Here’s what he had to say to Macclesfield Rugby.

What’s your background and what do you do for a living?

“I`m a Director of Clapham’s Landscape Services Ltd., which is one of the largest independently owned landscape contractors in the country.  Clapham’s carry out the implementation of landscaping schemes for major construction companies: we`ve just recently completed major landscaping schemes at both Tameside and Hope Hospitals for Balfour Beatty. We also provide a grounds’ maintenance service for managing agents at retail parks and business parks over the length and breadth of the country, and have bases in Worcester and Durham in addition to the main office in Stockport.”

How did you become interested in rugby?

“Rugby was probably in my blood……… as a toddler, I vaguely recall watching my Dad (Pete Harper Sr) play for Macclesfield at the old London Road ground:  the clubhouse was a corrugated Nissen hut, a whole world away from what we have today at Priory Park! The rugby club then moved to a brand new club house and ground at Tytherington, and I spent many years watching Macclesfield. Like every little boy watching their Dad play rugby, I played on the pitch with other kids after the game, imagining we were playing for Macclesfield, but never really thinking I`d ever play for `real` on the first team pitch.”

What was the particular attraction of Macclesfield Rugby Club?

“I was brought up on a diet of rugby at Macclesfield from a very early age, with my Dad being 1st xv Captain in the early 1960s, then skippering the 3rds, and I couldn`t wait to start playing the game. There was no mini, junior rugby then, so I had to wait until I started grammar school aged 11 before I played my first game. Two years later aged 13 I came home from a school game and was asked by my Dad to play for the 5th team as they were short of players.  It took me approximately 2 seconds to agree and off I went to Old Parkonians with the 1st xv, 3xv and 5ths, all travelling for an `old fashioned coach trip` for the last game of the season.”

“Following the game, there were drinking games and sing songs followed by a disco, and I thought this is the life for me!  I thought all games of rugby were like this and couldn`t wait to tell my mates at school on the Monday.”

“I continued to play for the 5ths as they evolved into the Veterans, and learned to play almost every position on the pitch, which made life very interesting! As I grew older, I progressed through the teams and was picked to play for the 1st xv just after I turned 17.  I was also playing for the Colts on Sundays and was asked to Captain them for the 1975-6 season, which culminated in us winning the Cheshire Cup – the first trophy ever won by a Macclesfield team.  5 years later, I was honoured to be asked to Captain the 1st xv which I had the privilege to do for 2 seasons, winning the Cheshire Plate in my first year a skipper.”

“As injuries took their toll, I dropped down the sides and Captained the 3rd team for 2 spells totalling 8 seasons, before at the age of 35 starting the `Dream Team` – a ‘younger’ Vets team, before going full circle and settling in the current Vets team approximately 12 years ago. Injury finally forced me to retire from playing last season, after 42 seasons playing senior rugby at Macclesfield.  During those 42 seasons, I`ve had the absolute privilege of playing alongside some fantastic characters, and made friends for life, not just with players from Macclesfield, but the rugby world all over.”

 What sort of functions do you carry out as Chairman of Macclesfield Rugby Club?   

“Firstly, I`d like to say what an honour and privilege, not to mention a responsibility, it is to be Chairman of Macclesfield Rugby Club.”

 “As far as my role is concerned, I Chair the Executive Committee which was set up at the end of last season; the first significant change in the structure of the Management for 30 years.  I`m extremely fortunate to have on board with me – in no particular order – Charlie Halle, Dave Mair, Jeremy Bostock and Tim Peakman who all have a vast amount of business, organisational and personal experience to call upon.  I should also at this point give my thanks to the previous Management Committee for their sterling work over the previous few seasons and for ensuring we have remained `in the black`. “

“We are lucky to have the support of our `Operations Team` comprising Mike Keeling, Tony King, Johnny Webster and our President, Clive Hammond – all of whom do a fantastic job, and Alan Johnson who does a lot of the administration with the RFU and Cheshire.  Special mention must also be made of Bill and Bev Roberts, who do numerous thankless and mostly unseen tasks on a daily basis to ensure the club is run efficiently.”  

“I`d like to make it clear, at the outset, that I see the Chairman`s roll as being the Chairman for the whole club, from the Under 6`s right up to the first xv and everything in between.”

“High up on the list of duties for the traditional role of a Club Chairman would probably be hosting visiting team officers, as well as watching the 1st xv playing week after week.  Although I see this as part of my role, I feel the need to speak and socialise with sponsors, potential sponsors, players at all levels, Club members, and potential members and hear their views and act where appropriate is equally if not more important.”

“Over the next month or so the executive committee will start the process of strategic planning for the future which will include consultation with the membership. This is a challenging time, given the current economic background, and the club needs the support of the entire membership; financially, emotionally and in the form of volunteering assistance when required, if we are to maintain the status quo, never mind moving forward. I`m quite happy to listen to the views of the membership, over all club matters, but if you are one of those who is happy to complain about things, please ask me how YOU can help and don`t leave everything to someone else.”