Huddersfield RUFC chairman Mark Birch has decided to step down from his post at the club’s AGM in August. Birch has led the club for just over a decade but feels the time is right to step aside.

Birch, 65, has sat on the club’s management committee in various roles for the last 23 years, as chair of rugby, vice-president, president, vice-chairman and now chairman.

He also played for the club for his entire playing career and became a one club man. In that time he became the youngest ever captain of the club in the 1984-85 campaign. Birch was a talented fly half/full back who was noted for his skill and tough tackling.

In a detailed letter to the club’s supporters Birch talked about last season and the struggles the club has gone through on and off the pitch.

He said: “It’s been a very challenging year for the club, both on and off the field during the 2022-23 season.

“Regarding on the field we had a poor start to the season for our first team losing the first six matches albeit gaining a few bonus points.

“Our wins at home against Blaydon and Wharfedale set us off on a strong run of form with notable wins against Tynedale and away at Chester, a superb winning performance against Hull Ionians 33-17 and the humbling of Rotherham in an absolute cracker 39-27. 

“These special performances secured our position as a Level 4, National 2 North team. Well done to everyone involved, a great effort and a memorable season in the end.

“Talking of great efforts, following the pandemic, we were unable to field a Falcons team, our second team in the 2021-22 season due to a lack of players. 

“Thanks to the commitment and support of Gavin Rhodes, Darren Nielly, Joe Shiel and George Hinchcliff, the club have managed to field a Falcons and an ‘A’ Team (3rd XV) on numerous occasions throughout last season. A fantastic achievement and well done to them all. 

“The Age Grade, which, of course now includes Michael Stancliffe’s Academy (U18s), have all had a very strong season under the overall guidance of age grade chair, Tracy Davis.

“Special mentions must go to our U16s, and their head coach, Steve Lynch, who together have won the Yorkshire Cup defeating Doncaster Knights 27-7. Also congratulations go to our U14s who are the Yorkshire Cup Asia Group winners 2023, under joint head coaches Richard Wareham and Shaun Hayes, defeating Wharfedale in a closely fought match 14-10. Great stuff lads. 

“Yet again, the organisation of the Mini and Junior festivals was impeccable and were rapturously received from all the visiting clubs. It really is a great sight to see, and the commitment and quality of the coaches and managers really bodes well. They are, after all, the future of the club. 

“Jess Bunyard’s development with the Women’s and Girls rugby continues to flourish and this past season has seen a number of matches being played and I’m sure they can’t wait to start again next season. Well done to all concerned. 

“Finally, at the end of this season, we say “au revoir” to our director of rugby Gareth Lewis. Gaz has been our head coach for 10 years with over 250 matches in charge, winning two promotions to National 2 North, the second one with a 100% record. 

“He also presided over our best ever position of 4th in the N2N League table. With all these great achievements and memories we wish him all the very best for his next adventure. 

“Well done Gaz and thank you very much for everything you’ve done for our club.”

Regarding off the field matters Birch added: “A number of unexpected events have occurred throughout the year bringing additional challenges. These include:

1. LCMT (Leonard Cowburn Memorial Trust) which is connected to the club and is a guardian of the buildings at the stadium in Lockwood lost the KAL tenancy, this has certainly put the club on the back foot financially.

2. The energy costs have risen in the region of 40% per annum.

3. Our lift broke down and required repairing at a not insignificant cost. 

4. Additional cost for the new stairs foundations due to the high water table.

5. Revenue losses due to the Astro-turf not being available for much of the winter. 

However, on a positive note:

1. The 3G pitch has been completed and is in full use thanks to the insurance claim and a special donation from the LCMT. Bookings are expected to improve throughout next year and we have an agreement with Honley Junior Football Club for 10 hours per week.

2. The LED floodlighting has been installed on the 3G using a grant from Kirklees, Our Space.

3. The ‘Asset Development Loan’ projects (toilets, car parks, Wade Stand seating and flooring) have been completed with the exception of the stairs. We await the railings and glass panels, hopefully in readiness for the wedding and party season.

“I am sure you will all agree, we now have facilities at our club that are second to none in the area. However, these facilities must be constantly maintained and the prompt payment of supporters’ membership helps with this enormously.” 

The club will decide at the AGM who will replace Birch as chairman.