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New chairman Anton de Leeuw has big plans for Gloucester City Hockey Club

Gloucester > Sport > Hockey

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 09:00

Anton de Leeuw Anton de Leeuw

New season, new man at the top, new ambition at Gloucester City Hockey Club.

Anton de Leeuw took over as chairman early in the summer and has wasted little time in getting down to work.

He’s an impressive man is Anton de Leeuw, an entrepreneur and successful businessman who describes himself as “very driven”.

But de Leeuw, who was born in what was then Rhodesia 44 years ago, is very anxious that the Gloucester City story does not become all about him – on the contrary he wants the club to be the sole focus as he looks to galvanise support and take them forward.

And as you’d expect of someone who has worked successfully in many parts of the world, he has very ambitious plans for the club.

“I’m desperate for Gloucester City Hockey Club to be successful,” he said. “It’s a city and we as a club should be on the radar of England Hockey.”

For that to happen he is aware that the club will need to progress both on and off the pitch.

And it’s the off-the-pitch set-up that de Leeuw believes needs to be radically changed.

“At the moment we are split across three locations,” he said, “at Plock Court, St Peter’s School and Dean Close School, and that makes for a decentralised membership.

“What I want to do is find somewhere we can have two pitches side by side and our own clubhouse.”

That won’t happen overnight of course and de Leeuw, who had just moved house from Painswick to the Ebley/Foxmoor area on the edge of Stroud when he spoke to The Local Answer, admitted that he didn’t know where the new facility may be built.

But what he is certain of is that if it became a reality it would go a long way to transforming the club which in turn would surely take it to the next level.

“It would give us a really sustainable facility which would help us attract new members and new leaders,” he said.

“We currently have some 300 members but five years ago we were stronger. We should have 500 members which would put us in the top 50 clubs in the country. At the moment we’re 161st out of 800.

“We need to become known as a really friendly club. We are very welcoming but I’m desperate to have stronger community connections. My job is to put the club on the map, get a development plan and carry the brand forward.”

The more people who are aware of Gloucester City Hockey Club the better, of course, and on the pitch there are certainly some good things happening because the ladies’ section is very strong. Their first team competes in the national league and they also run three other teams.

It’s not quite so healthy in the men’s section where the club run three competitive teams plus a social/vets side.

“We’re looking to recruit some young guys,” said de Leeuw, “but we have to be realistic. Gloucester is a rugby city and King’s School is the only school in Gloucester where the boys play hockey.

“We’ve got a great junior section although the girls are stronger than the boys.

“That makes it more difficult but I’d love the club to have four competitive men’s teams and for the senior team to get closer to the national league.”

It’s clear that de Leeuw knows what he’s on about whether he’s talking about restructuring the club off the pitch or improving it on it.

While he’s done a multitude of jobs at the top end of the business world for much of his adult life, he’s been involved in hockey for close on 40 years.

He started playing from the age of six when he moved to South Africa. He was a goalkeeper and a very good one at that, good enough to play professionally in his adopted country in the mid-90s.

That was despite breaking his back while playing in 1991, an injury as serious as it sounds that required three corrective surgeries.

It ultimately cost him a place in South Africa’s Olympic squad for the 1996 Atlanta Games when he lost out to his long-time rival Brad Milne.

He first settled in this country – and more specifically Stroud – in the late 90s and enjoyed a three-year spell playing and coaching at Lydney before work took him down to London.

Married to Julie, who is from Stroud, and with two sons – Thomas and Felix – it was oldest son Thomas, who is now 15, who first got him involved with Gloucester City Hockey Club when he returned to this area.

“He started playing for them when he was 11 or 12,” he said. “I used to take him over and that’s how it all started.

“I helped manage the younger guys, then last season I was managing the under-16s and also the ladies’ section as well as doing some specialist goalkeeper training.”

This season de Leeuw is continuing to manage the ladies and is also hoping to play for England Masters Over-45s. “I’ve got the kit out,” he chuckled.

He knows all about that level of hockey because he managed England Over-45s at the Masters World Cup in Barcelona in the summer, a tournament in which a number of Gloucester players were involved.

De Leeuw is clearly a busy, busy man, so how long does he envisage being chairman of Gloucester City?

“A chairman gets elected by the club’s committee every year and I’d never presume that I’d do the job longer than that,” he said.

“If someone comes along who can do a better job than me I’d happily hand over the reins. My biggest wish is to leave Gloucester City in a better place than when I started.”

You certainly wouldn’t bet against that happening although equally you suspect he’s going to need a lot longer than a year if he is to make his dreams become a reality.

“How do we make Gloucester great?” he asked. “How do we make Gloucester amazing?”

And he has the answers as well.

“If we all believe, we’ll get momentum; and if we get momentum, we’ll have success,” he said.

Other Images

Gloucester’s under-16s against Slough

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