Spring 2021 issue - Rugby Blindside magazine

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Contents Features

In Focus

Interview with Karen Hood, Head of the IPF ...................................................................................................02 Featured: Widnes RUFC 'Fundraising success for an important community club' ...................................................................................................08 Featured: Beckenham RFC 'Player wellbeing at Beckenham RFC' .....................................................................................................12 Interview with Tom Hooper, Strength and Conditioning Coach ....................................................................................................18 Featured: Staffordshire Rugby Union 'Grants awarded for Staffordshire rugby clubs' ...................................................................................................20 Featured: Hartlepool Rugby Club 'A demonstration of kindness and support from the local community' ....................................................................................................24

Mindset Sport .......................................................................................................11

News Club news ...................................................................................................06 Community news .....................................................................................................16 Funding news ....................................................................................................22 Commercial news ....................................................................................................30 Facilities news .....................................................................................................31 From the professional game ....................................................................................................36

Featured: FYB Rugby survey 'Grassroots rugby set for hopeful bounce back' ....................................................................................................28 Opinion: Will Roberts 'Creating a lasting legacy' ....................................................................................................32

See page 24

See page 08

See page 12

See page 02



Player welfare

Interview: Karen Hood

Interview with Karen Hood, Head of the Injured Players Foundation Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Karen Hood, Head of the IPF, who told us about the work they do in helping rugby players affected by catastrophic injuries.


Can you tell us about what the Injured Players Foundation (IPF) is and what you do?

Where does the IPF get its funding from to help those affected by catastrophic injuries?

The RFU Injured Players Foundation (IPF), provides support to rugby players in England who sustain a catastrophic injury playing the game and help prevent future injuries through vital research.

Our support comes from three main sources: Invested funds that SPIRE built up act as reserves for the charity; our immediate support work with injured players is funded directly by the RFU; but arguably the most important source of funding is the funds raised by the rugby community itself.

The IPF’s assistance is available to any player, from grassroots up to professional level, to empower them to lead their lives as fully and independently as they are able to. They are there for the player, their family, friends and clubs immediately after injury and for the rest of their lives. The IPF are continually funding research to better understand how the care of injured players can be improved and how we can all make the game of rugby safer; with the vision to allow everyone to play the game without catastrophic injuries occurring. What is your role in the organisation and how did you get involved? I’m the Head of the Charity, and actually helped to set it up in 2008 when the RFU took on a previous charity (SPIRE) that had been working in this area for a while and really enhanced the support that it was possible to give. Over that time I’ve been able to see that rugby is much more confident about talking about injuries, the work the game is doing to prevent them and the support it gives to those most in need.

Rugby clubs run events to raise money for the IPF; or individuals take on challenges for us (I have joined in with these, as have some of the IPF’s Trustees), and our injured players also continue to inspire us by raising funds – through taking part in 10k and marathon events, hosting charity tournaments at their local club, or supporting our fundraising dinners and awareness activities by sharing their inspirational stories. As well as financial aid, the IPF also funds research into catastrophic injuries. Can you provide some details about this initiative? Our vision is for the game of rugby to be played without life-changing injuries happening. Whilst these injuries are very rare, one is one too many. We work with universities to investigate how and why these injures happen, and what (if anything) can be done to prevent them. This work explores a number of directions, recently Bath University have been using computer modelling to simulate rugby injuries as well as working with Southampton University



Player welfare hospital to examine the injuries that have occurred with the aim of identifying any common factors that could be addressed. Like most organisations in rugby the IPF relies on a team of volunteers. How important are the volunteers that help the foundation and how can someone get involved if they are interested? We simply couldn’t operate without our wonderful volunteers. We have a group of 8 Trustees who give their time to make sure the charity is run effectively and achieves the most impact possible; also there is a fantastic group of Volunteer Liaison Officers who work in their local areas, keeping in regular contact with our injured players and making sure they remain a part of the rugby community. The injured players too are amazingly supportive; we work hard to make sure they are involved in setting the priorities for the IPF, getting involved in fundraising or research projects, offering peer support to other injured player and giving us regular feedback on what is needed so that we can be sure we’re focussed on the right work and delivering it in the right way. Can you share with us a story of someone who was helped by the IPF? Jack’s story: "The most important thing has been the personal approach, the IPF became our extended family.”


When he sustained a catastrophic injury playing rugby at 26, Jack was working as a sports injury specialist. His working and rugby playing life was in Wimbledon when he was airlifted to an intensive care unit and trauma centre near Brighton and his family were called. “Within 12 hours the IPF were at my bedside, giving emotional support to my family and girlfriend. In that situation everyone is in melt down and they were our go to people for everything we needed. "The most important thing has been the personal approach, the IPF became our extended family,” says Jack who is currently living with his parents in Wiltshire while planning for the future, his flat in London being completely inaccessible. Jack was hospitalised for eight months. “The IPF covered everything, from family travel to accommodation so that they could be near me to helping with my transfer to Stoke Mandeville and getting me in touch with the physios and occupational therapists there. "Whether it’s sorting the correct chair or vehicle for me, equipment to get back to work, or extra rehabilitation to improve my mobility, the IPF is involved.

“Without them I would have an NHS budget allowing me an hour’s generic physio a week but thanks to extra rehab with IPF partners Hobbs I have been receiving nine hours weekly with two or three neuro specialists working with me at the same time. This is making a huge difference. “I had no idea how much the charity did for someone seriously injured playing rugby and the help I have been given is substantial and far outweighs what I might have anticipated. But it’s not just what that help is, it’s the way it has been given, they have become real family, friends and remain the ones I can go to for help and advice on everything.” What are your future plans for the IPF in how it continues to develop and help players in the game? We need to make sure we can be there for the players who need us for the rest of their lives. As statutory resources are stretched ever thinner, the NHS and Local Authority support is often not enough to help someone live truly independently, and that’s where the IPF can step in to fill the gaps and help people achieve their ambitions. New work investigating how players can be better supported with their mental health wellbeing and resilience is also being investigated to further improve the independence and quality of life for all those supported by the charity.

We will also continue to work with the RFU, world rugby and other rugby charities around the world to reduce the risk of serious injury within the game. And finally, how can a player get in touch with the IPF and receive support?

They can reach us by a number of different ways: Website https://www.rfuipf.org.uk/contact-us Telephone General enquiries: 020 8831 7693 Freephone Number for injured players: 0800 783 1518 Email Email enquiries: IPF@therfu.com Grant enquiries: ipfgrants@rfu.com Social media Twitter: @TheRugbyCharity Facebook: RFUIPF Instagram: @rfuipf



Club news

Ipswich RFC announce Northampton Saints affiliation Ipswich RFC have announced their new status as an affiliate club of Northampton Saints. This formal tie-up will allow them to build closer links to the Saints and benefit from their resources, partnerships and initiatives as a topclass professional club. Ipswich RFC is the first club in Eastern Counties to be recognised by Saints to be part of the affiliation scheme due to their work developing young players within our community. They are proud of their record in this area, with 3 recent club graduates (Lewis Ludlam, Alex Moon and Tui Uru) all performing in the Saints first XV this season, and many other past and present players throughout the club part of the Saints academy structure. The club looks forward to welcoming Saints coaches and playing staff to their ground at Humber Doucy Lane in the near future to work with their own coaching team and players, and they also look forward to visiting Franklins Gardens and fellow affiliate clubs in Northamptonshire as part of the new partnership in seasons to come. “We welcome this official tie up between our forward thinking community club and Northampton Saints. Ipswich RFC has an enviable record of nurturing and developing local youth talent and Saints have an admirable programme of supporting grass roots rugby. "Ipswich are proud to be chosen to be a Saints affiliated club with the benefits that this will bring to its young rugby players, coaches, members, sponsors and supporters” – Ipswich RFC Chairman Mike Hancock "The Northampton Saints Affiliation is an exciting development for our club, which further enhances and evidences the desire to give both coaches and players the best opportunity to develop their skills and therefore maximise enjoyment. "We look forward to working in tandem with Northampton Saints in the future for what I am sure will be of mutual benefit" – Ipswich RFC Rugby Development Director Marcus Tobin


Mitcham & Carshalton becomes First Affiliate Member of International Gay Rugby Mitcham & Carshalton Rugby Club are delighted to confirm that they have been granted Affiliate Membership of the IGR (International Gay Rugby), the first club in England to receive it. Affiliate membership is the mechanism by which a community rugby club can register its support for the aims and goals of the inclusive rugby community and as a result be granted non-voting membership. Mitcham’s Director of Rugby Edward Marsh expressed his delight with the decision. "This is another step in creating a club that is welcoming to all, open to all, offering Rugby for all. We will never stop the pursuit of excellence on and off the pitch as we continue to grow. This association is another important milestone on that journey." In 2020, the club welcomed gay & inclusive side the London Stags to the club. They will share the club’s facilities as well as a number of players who now train for both sides. Michael Smith, Chairman of the London Stags added “We’re thrilled that M&C have become an affiliate member of the IGR. M&C welcomed us into their rugby home and family. It feels very apt that they have joined ours too!”. Before the pandemic caused several nationwide lockdowns, the club had planned to host London Pride 7s. This will be a first of its kind tournament in South London, looking to champion inclusive rugby, with clubs around the country travelling to take part. This was unfortunately postponed but the club is optimistic that it will take place this year once it is safe to do so. "The health and wellbeing of players is paramount, and we will continue to follow the guidance laid out by the RFU and the Government. We are still hugely optimistic that we will be able to host London Pride 7s at Mitcham & Carshalton in 2021” said Mitcham & Carshalton Chairman, Keir Waller. “Being able to host an inaugural inclusive rugby tournament and to become be an affiliate member of the IGR is such a privilege and we’re very keen to make this event a long-term event on everyone’s calendar. The club has progressed so much in the last few years and it’s fantastic that we’re able to champion inclusive rugby.”

London Welsh form mental health partnership

Wasps Ladies announce player pathway with Oxford College

London Welsh RFC place a special emphasis on the welfare of everyone within our community and are delighted to announce that we have partnered with a specialist provider in mental health and personal well-being. MYNDUP, with over 250 expert practitioners, stops the 'one size fits all' approach to mental health by providing 1:1 virtual sessions across the whole mental health spectrum - counselling, therapy, life coaching, executive coaching, mindfulness and meditation.

The Wasps Ladies ACE programme has been launched with the City of Oxford College, for female rugby players aged 16 to 18, who have the potential to play at the highest level.

The range of services MYNDUP offers is wholly discreet and professional. Access to a specialist practitioner may be made by going to the dedicated MYNDUP/London Welsh RFC portal myndupxlondonwelsh.com. Just select a practitioner that matches personal interests and needs and apply the code MXLW40 at checkout. The London Welsh RFC community qualifies for a 40% discount! London Welsh Player and MYNDUP Growth Manager Jamie Domachi commented: “Since joining the club in the summer the London Welsh family have been so welcoming and supportive both on and off the training pitch. There is a real sense of community and looking after each other. I personally have benefited from the expert guidance of the Careers Hub and have experienced first hand how much the club cares about their player and supporter welfare and development. It makes me proud that MYNDUP can support the London Welsh community even further.” Haydn Parry, Vice Chairman, London Welsh RFC commented: “More than ever, we are faced with increasing pressure on our personal and working lives. Our partnership with MYNDUP offers an additional level of professional assistance and expert help for everyone within our LWRFC community. I am delighted that MYNDUP, as our mental health partner, can offer such a comprehensive solution that addresses a broad spectrum of mental health and personal, wellbeing needs.” As well as providing significant discounts to support our community, MYNDUP will be supporting the player and coaching base as part of our performance rugby programme and working with us in our community projects going forwards.

Wasps ACE students will be able to compete with their home club, while getting access to more than 12 hours of contact time with Wasps Ladies staff. This partnership will be the first of its kind for Wasps Ladies further expanding the pathway from grassroots engagement to elite performance. Pat Metcalfe-Jones, head of girls rugby at City of Oxford College, said: “Our partnership with Wasps Ladies will provide an outstanding experience and pathway for the academic and rugby pursuits of young female players. “I’m looking forward to engaging with our local rugby clubs and schools within this new Wasps partnership, to ultimately expand the opportunities for young players within the area.”

Bangor RFC announce BLK as new kit supplier The club have announced that a long-term kit deal with BLK Ireland, which will see them supply all rugby Bangor RFC kit and apparel from the start of the 2021/22 season. The move will include a new home shirt design that will be worn by all teams, including Minis and Youth right up to the 1st XV. Chairman of Rugby, Iain Kennedy, commented “Despite the challenges of COVID, it’s a really exciting time for the Club, there is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure the Club is in a position to excel once we restart after COVID. The announcement of the BLK deal is the first part of that strategy to be announced, and we hope to announce other news in the near future. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the strength and unity of the club represented by a single Bangor shirt, whichever team you play for. The change in supplier will also allow us to hold stock of popular items which will allow members to buy kit as they require it.On behalf of the club I’d also like to thank Kukri, with whom we enjoyed an excellent long-term relationship.”



Club funding: Widnes RUFC

Fundraising success for an important community club Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Martin Griffiths, Club President at Widnes RUFC. He told us about the club's successful Crowdfunder campaign that has helped support the club financially and allowed them to make the necessary improvements to the club. I took over as Widnes RUFC President in August. Having had to cancel all rugby activities and close our clubhouse during Lockdown 1, immediate Past President John Loughnane had launched a Crowdfunder appeal to ensure the club was able to survive without the normal income from rugby games and bar sales. What a tremendous success it was, with our target of £15,000 being overtaken in less than 2 months. This was thanks to our


dedicated group of supporters, members and sponsors together with a welcome contribution from Sport England. A total of 159 supporters contributed to the appeal. These pledges gave us the confidence to make investments in the clubhouse to ensure Covid compliance, allowing us to open the bar in early July. Larger projects we were able to embark upon

included installation of a state-of-the-art air conditioning system in our Concert Suite, together with a general refurbishment. Sadly, the bar had to close again in October and has had to remain closed throughout Tier 3 and Lockdown 3 restrictions. Our General Manager, Tracey Clay, has worked tirelessly to ensure we maintain a safe and friendly environment and we will be ready to reopen our bar and concert facilities once government rules and guidance make them viable. Widnes Rugby Union Football Club (commonly known as The Wids) is the main community amateur sports club in an area of social deprivation. Founded in 1924 as Old Widnesians, the club moved into its own building and grounds in 1959.

The club has promoted Colts (youth) Rugby since 1960 and Mini-Juniors (under 7s upwards) successfully since 1991. With a strong emphasis on families, it is by no means unusual for fathers and sons to be playing in the same team. The vast majority of the current 1st XV squad came through the juniors. That same team won three trophies last season and were on course for a similar haul in 2019-20. As it turned out, they have had to settle for the ADM Lancashire Premier League title as the other competitions had to be cancelled. Entirely run by volunteers, the club is largely reliant on match-day revenue and social functions for finance. This came to an abrupt halt with the Covid-19 outbreak. The virus threat has had a devastating effect on plans and cashflow projection.



Club funding: Widnes RUFC As an example, two home matches and four functions were scheduled in the nine days following lockdown. With seven weeks until the end of the season and the distinct possibility of the 1st XV reaching two cup finals, all had seemed rosy. The Annual Dinner and Captain's Barbecue were likely to make good profits and, with the function room now a local events venue of choice, spring and summer promised to generate enough income to guarantee the long term sustainability of the club. While still financially sound, the club has experienced an interruption in income that seriously jeopardises the projected pitch maintenance and clubhouse upgrades which had been scheduled for the coming months. In addition to the usual seeding, marking and painting, new posts are needed on one pitch and, ideally, netting to prevent balls landing on the adjacent Liverpool-Manchester railway line. The club buildings need roof repairs in the gym/changing room area as well as improvements to heating and air conditioning. Any pledges received will be used to get this work back on track. The club's volunteers do the hard graft. Past President Graham McLean was named Lancashire RFU Groundsman of the Year in 2017 while fellow Past President Sam Cook, currently Club Treasurer, literally demonstrates his hands-on approach installing a new ceiling in the concert room.

the past 15 years and they have been proactive in the community supporting players, coaches, parents, volunteers and social members. "The club has always worked along-side community partners to help deliver on the local priority areas for improvement. Skills development, health issues, social well- being and safer neighbourhoods are some issues that the club have helped to make a difference to in the Borough of Halton." Ged Flynn, Chief Executive at PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide) stated: "As a native of Widnes, I am very aware of the work of Widnes RUFC over the years. The club exists ostensibly to provide an opportunity for local players to enjoy rugby. However, it is clearly much more than this. In my professional role, I have witnessed first hand the benefits of the club and its work to the community and especially in terms of health promotion. The community which surrounds the buildings and its playing fields at Widnes RUFC comprises far greater an array of people than simply the players – and the club achieves much more than rugby and player support."

Widnes RUFC plays an extremely significant role within the local community which is why the fundraising efforts are so important. Jane Rhodes, former Halton Borough Council Sports & Physical Activity Development Officer, said: "I have been working to support Widnes Rugby Union Club for


Bill Beaumont, Chairman of World Rugby, added: "Rugby is about Community. Come here and you’re surrounded by volunteers. They don’t want anything out of it - just a legacy of the club going forward and improving."

In Focus: Mindset Sport

Mindset Sport A free to use resource to help grassroots sports clubs improve the well-being of their members Mindset Sport is a new, free wellbeing resource aimed at local, grassroots sports clubs. It is completely free and is there to help coaches, players, parents and clubs assist in the wellbeing of their members. Resources cover a range of subjects from physical and mental health to financial and relationship support. We are here to help you signpost to get people the right help. The aim is to normalise conversations around mental health, LGBTQI+ and ED&I awareness in local sports and give local clubs and coaches the tools they need to look after people as a whole not just the physical health. The site is designed to signpost users to the professional support services that are available with tips and blogs from experts in certain areas. Most people are aware that there is a direct correlation between the benefits of sport on mental health and wellbeing but there is also proof that players who feel engaged and looked after are able to perform better. That’s why the large sports clubs have psychologists, but we're aware that this is not possible for the smaller clubs so we created Mindset Sport. We would love this to touch every sports club across the country to help improve player wellbeing. Mindset Sport is currently wholly funded by Mindset who specialise in introducing Wellbeing, Mental health & ED&I training and policies into business. Alongside lived experience of depression and anxiety the creator of Mindset Sport is a qualified MHFA England instructor and associate trainer for the mental health charity Mind. It came about as Mindset were working with a local Rugby Club to help with the club’s Mental health provision and we decided that if we were writing for one club why not share it with everyone.

These include blOKes, Mangang, Tough Enough to Care and #GiveARuck who all work in the mental health arena, The Magic Academy Coaches, ASH Fit and Wells PhysioFit who provide some physical fitness and wellbeing support along with Happiness is Egg Shaped and Fill your Boots who have a mutual interest in sports wellbeing. Here are the clubs that have committed to displaying that they are working towards looking after their players both on and off the pitch and we need: Overton Rugby Club Haslemere Community Rugby Club Cranleigh Rugby Club Ecclesham Rugby Club Doreset Storm Basketball club Hoff Reserves 5-a-side football club (Basingstoke) How we display where a club is in the journey Bronze - For those clubs signed up to use the free web resources, have added a link to Mindset Sport from your club site and have sent us your logo to feature on our site. Silver - For those clubs that have done the above & have taken advantage of the free training sessions provided by Mindset Sport for coaches and players. We will also accept proof of attending 'Movembers' Ahead of the Game training or Give a Ruck Training. Gold - This is for clubs who have done all of the above and also provide trained Mental Health First Aiders at all levels in the club. There may be a cost element to cover the cost of materials and trainers time, but this is partly subsidised by our parent training company, Proof of training required if provided by another supplier.

We have a great relationship with some amazing partners who have come on board to offer their expertise to all our members. More are being added all the time so we can expand our network.



Player welfare: Beckenham RFC

Player wellbeing at Beckenham RFC Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Ali Boyd, Director of Player Wellbeing at Beckenham RFC. She told us about the various initiatives at the club to help with their players' mental health. Having retired from being 1st XV manager for 8 seasons at Beckenham RFC last year, and having seen and experienced rugby players at their colourful best, I’ve also seen them at their worst and most vulnerable, sometimes post injury, or sometimes when life just happens. I became very aware of our duty of care as a club and place they should be able to seek support from. Rugby after all is about community and a sense of family, but in mental health sometimes your family isn’t where you want to turn.




Player welfare: Beckenham RFC From the top down, the game of rugby is looking for new initiatives and collaborations (like the one between the RFU and MIND) to help start the conversation around mental health and encourage people to speak up about any difficulties they’re experiencing. As a club we recognise the importance of this, and want to be forward thinking and innovative in our approach. We are one of a few clubs in the SE who offer this as an additional layer to support our players, keeping them at the heart of what we do. The ethos of setting up the initiative was to focus on supporting our players mental health and wellbeing first and foremost but also in a few different ways.


One of the wellbeing volunteers (who are all trained in MH first aid) will then be in touch, support and help signpost the player to appropriate sources of further help and support. All contact is treated in the strictest of confidence, unless we feel someone is a risk to themselves or others. Also, once COVID guidelines allow us to meet safely, we will be organising some wellbeing and motivational talks focussing on issues around mental health and sport, with a rugby focus of course.

As a large club with 5 senior sides, an academy and a youth section, we needed to find a model that would work and was sustainable.

We also have a very exciting collaboration with the charity blOKes which we launched back in November, to whom we are a partner club. Their ambassadors (pro players and other professional athletes) will visit our club to encourage openness and transparency when it comes to talking about mental health.

To start with we put in place 5 mental health first aiders across the club, and if anyone is struggling and wants to talk to somebody in confidence we can be contacted on: Talktous@beckenhamrfc.com.

“Blokes” have 3 partner rugby clubs, ourselves being one and we are very much looking forward to what we can achieve working together in the post Covid world, and when we can get back to the club in person.

You can find blOKes at www.blokes.life if you want to look up the great work their founder Tom Home is doing. Tom and I are meeting virtually to set up some remote “Share a Male Tale” sessions for our players. As with anything, we don’t know what the uptake will be, but the more we do the more it will be recognised hopefully over time. There are other aspects to what we’ll be doing as part of the initiative like making sure players have all the recent communications from the RFU and MIND around mental health and wellbeing, organising some sessions on CPR - cardio pulmonary resuscitation (so that all the players know how to react in an emergency situation and use the defib), and we would like to offer cardiac screening through Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) - work in progress as COVID has scuppered any face to face projects, and of course open access to the confidential email address whenever it’s needed. The email is checked daily. In a time of uncertainty, providing support and a confidential space is hugely important, when for some contact with others has been minimal, and as a team sport the support from your team mates and seeing each other 3 times a week has been non-existent, the initiative has come into its own. In time, hopefully soon, we will see a return our great game at grassroots level, and as a club we will continue to make our club experience one of the best for our players, making it a great experience on the pitch and looking after them off of it.



Community news

Rosslyn Park Slingbacks urge rugby community to help NHS

reasons for where to help or club members or their family members may be working for the NHS.”

Samantha Emery is now club captain of the Rosslyn Park Slingbacks women’s rugby team, having started playing for the U16s at Lichfield. After more than 20 years loving rugby, she was putting together a package of tasty snacks for her local hospital NHS staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Blackheath, when she realised: “Lots of front line workers belong to local rugby clubs and someone always knows someone in the rugby community. So we are well placed to help as a sport.”

A month into the campaign and clubs had joined the #Rugby4NHS squad from Kent to Yorkshire and by month two they hit Dundee. Samantha said: “Each team has made it their own, Ashford RUFC organised a covid-safe donation drop off day at the clubhouse, Prenton RUFC pulled together care packages by raising over £600 in a few days on a donation site”.

Why not, she thought, get the rugby community to donate care packages to NHS workers as they face such a challenging time? “I saw posts online saying how appreciative ward staff are of snacks and treats turning up when they are struggling to find time to eat. I thought we could try and give back to raise their spirits.” The Rosslyn Park Slingbacks’ initiative gained traction throughout the club as well as wider support. England’s Marlie Packer and Owen Farrell reposted their efforts and other clubs got in touch. There were also shout outs on TalkSPORT, BBC London and major rugby podcasts. “Helping the NHS is the primary goal, but we have all been missing rugby so much, that it’s also a fantastic way to help rekindle the rugby family spirit,” said Samantha. “The hashtag #rugby4nhs can be used when sharing posts of donations and tagging the sending team and where it went. “The hashtag and launch post is live on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and gives guidance on how to approach helping. It’s for teams to decide which hospital and area to support and while Covid wards, ITU and A&E are heavily hit by the pandemic, other wards are struggling, and staff like porters can get overlooked. Individuals may also have personal


Other clubs signing up included Preston Grasshoppers girls, Stamford ladies, Barnes, Scarborough Valkyries and Thamesians, as well as touch and sevens teams such as London CSSC and Barnes Bears. Where teams are already supporting the NHS support, Sam says using #Rugby4NHS will help to showcase the work of the rugby community as a whole. "Dozens of hospitals and their staff are being supported and the reception has been fantastic. Hospitals and their staff have directly responded and online groups like wecare4nhs, charities and Wooden Spoon have shared the work," said Samantha. “It’s been hugely rewarding to see that we are making a tangible difference - it really shows the power acts of kindness have, for those giving as well as those receiving.” “Of course, it’s essential to follow all Government guidelines and to check in advance what help your hospital would welcome and how to deliver it. While some accept direct delivery, others are coordinating via councils and we’ve even found one hospital with an Amazon wishlist set up.” Recognising that some people may find it easier to donate, they’ve set up a donation page. For every £100 raised, they’ll work across the rugby family to get a care package to another region. #Rugby4NHS is encouraging Game Day Giving during the Six Nations, for teams to post that they are joining the campaign or to donate.

Newton Abbott RFC #OneCommunity project Will Smith of Complete Estate & Letting Agents donated £1000 to the Newton Abbott RFC's Community Project - End Child Food Poverty. Before the Christmas period, Newton Abbot Rugby Club provided 75+ Christmas hampers to families who meet the correct criteria. Newton Abbot Rugby Club is close to Will's heart and in his own words, he says, "The Club (NARFC) saved me and gave me the confidence and a lot of the skills I have today, which has enabled me to get to where I am. When I have been in a dark place the club and the true friends I have made there have helped me to a better place." He continued, "If Complete and myself can help some families it would give us great pleasure; the current climate is making it harder for some less fortunate families and If I'm lucky enough to be in a position to help I will where I can. Will has been a huge part of Newton Abbot Rugby Club for many years and they are hugely grateful for his generosity. Following the launch of this local initiative, the Club received a personal "thank you" from Marcus Rashford, who has been leading the campaign to Feed Britain's Children. His letter stated: "I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the incredible role you have played in protecting the most vulnerable children within your local community in recent months. The empathy and compassion you have shown has shone a really positive light on 2020 and has demonstrated the true power of togetherness. I understand 2020 has been a difficult year for business and the fact you were willing to run at an even greater loss to protect our children when the Government rejected holiday provision left me overwhelmed with pride, and truly thankful."

Chinnor Kites get active for charity The Kites have proved to be a real inspiration this month, with plenty of positive messages, thousands of km in their legs and hundreds of pounds going to charity. Chinnor RFC Thame’s women’s team has been

raising money for mental health sports charity, Sport in Mind, by taking part in RED January. The aim is to get active every day, with RED January a movement aimed at helping people support their mental wellbeing through exercise. The Kites have been doing just that, all within the government guidelines of course. They have logged more than 2,000km to help them sit near the top of the Chinnor Challenge leaderboard, as well as raising more than £580 for Sport in Mind. Head Coach, Fran Ronan is keen to raise awareness of the benefits that exercise can have on our mental health. She said: “RED January is just about encouraging people to take part in everyday physical activity, whether it’s yoga, walking, running, cycling, anything that they are doing, even riding a scooter. “It’s set up alongside Sport In Mind which is a charity running alongside the NHS and they deliver physical activity programmes for those struggling with mental health. “It’s been about raising awareness and to encourage people to get up and active, and actually to do something that’s really going to benefit their mental health as well as helping other people too.”

Stourbridge Rugby deliver food parcels to local school Working with Ridgewood High School, the club’s Community Department - which is run and operated by Community Group - delivered free school meals to 70 households. Head of Community, Chad Thorne, Stourbridge Rugby’s Head of Marketing, Louise Price and volunteers Michelle Wood and Joe Wood dropped off the food parcels to ensure children who are learning from home receive the adequate nutrition they require. Stourbridge Rugby’s Head of Community, Chad Thorne said: “We want to support the community during this challenging time and we have offered our help to schools in the local area. As a club, there’s always different ways we can help the community and we hope the families benefitted from the food parcels which were delivered.”



Player welfare

Interview: Tom Hooper

Interview with Tom Hooper, Strength and Conditioning Coach Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Tom Hooper a Strength and Conditioning coach working on the South coast. He gave us his thoughts on best practices for players staying healthy and matchready in these unusual times with no competitive matches. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in rugby?

What is your coaching philosophy/coaching fundamentals?

I’ve been fortunate enough that my family got me into rugby from an early age with my local club Hove RFC for which I coach currently. I have played both locally and overseas up until 4 years ago and I’ve been coaching for nearly 10 years now.

My current philosophy is to educate and equip individuals with knowledge and comprehensive principles to reach their optimal levels of performance for rugby. I believe the basics are never to be neglected and you should consistently have them incorporated as part of your annual programme as a non-negotiable.

What is your current role? I am currently an Academy Strength & Conditioning coach at Cardinal Newman School in Brighton and Hove. I also run a programme for Rugby players from the ages of 13-18 years of age as part of Newman Trailfinders Academy for which I thoroughly enjoy.


Youth athletes especially need educating on the rationales behind exercises that have been prescribed for them. Creating habits is so valuable for players as they grow up, there’s no better way than to have them educated at a young age so they can adapt quickly as they carry on their learning pathway.

We are in strange times with many players facing a lack of game time. How are you currently managing players' conditioning levels? A lot of my training principles are based around being accountable and taking ownership. I have been fortunate that managing player expectations has been quite easy. I put a plan in place from the beginning of the season to account for any unforeseen circumstances that may occur. Having a framework and outlining specific work ons as part of the players’ individual development plans has been key to managing workloads effectively. Supporting these with weekly coaching calls with them has been great, setting them individual tasks and giving them time to reflect on how the week has gone has been a great tool for me. I always like to make everything engaging, team focused and fun for anything goal specific to be achieved. Many clubs at the grassroots level don’t have the benefit of having a dedicated strength and conditioning coach. What’s your advice to these clubs to help manage players levels? Planning and being structured about your players development is very important. Their well-being should be a 1st port of call for any coach, by educating not dictating you’ll see results from the start. Build a consistent framework with a long-, medium- and short-term strategy behind it that follows the S.M.A.R.T principles your life will be a lot easier. So following this; S - Specific Are your goals specific and do you have the right measures in place that are aligned to fit for your players? M - Measurable It comes down to the planning methods you use to track your progress. This is normally across Short, Medium, and Long Term parameters as mentioned above. A - Achievable Can it be done? Of course, anything is attainable if you want it badly enough. R - Realistic Is it something you can realistically say is going to associate with your specific demands for the sport that you are training for. Are the training methods in place relevant to the players? T - Time Over how long you see yourself completing these goals is important but do not let time be an issue. The goalposts can change as long as you're aware of this.

Finally, be unique and don’t follow the crowd with what another club may be doing. If It’s not engaging, 9 times out of 10 players have seen it all so I advise you spend time devising a detailed schedule how you see fit and work from that but have space for changes. What challenges do you think clubs will face with the return to rugby programme? I think a lot of clubs experience challenges daily even in the general climate. More so now as we are restricted, clubs will be finding it tougher. By not having a plan in place they will see a vast number of players drop off due to the lack of engagement through tough times. Lack of exercise during the tough times might expose muscular imbalances in players. Not having conditioned players will significantly reduce their ability to carry out general tasks on command. Injuries are sadly part of the game. What methods do you have to try and help prevent injuries/help players recover after an injury? Injury prevention is a big thing for me as I work with youth athletes. Their bodies need to become accustomed to heavier workloads. During a growth phase their bodies are likely, if not monitored correctly, to become more susceptible to injuries. I encourage the players to focus on the areas they can control not the ones out of their control. Educating them on key principles of mobility, health and using mental preparation exercises they can be accustomed to both sides of the coin and are able to maintain high levels of performance. Managing player expectations is very important both when healthy and injured. We run mobility assessments periodically to see how players are developing and use a pre-developed framework to support this area of focus. By addressing the weaknesses straight away we can implement the correct strategy to reduce the risk of injury. And finally, what are your goals as a strength and conditioning coach? To continually keep educating and equipping young rugby players with the correct exercise principles to stay fit, healthy and game ready all the time so they can prolong their playing careers.



Club funding: Staffordshire Rugby Union


Grants awarded for Staffordshire rugby clubs Rob Forsyth, Staffordshire President/Chairman recently told Rugby Blindside about the actions taken by Staffordshire Rugby Union to help clubs in their region. The past year has been tough for many clubs up and down the country. Support and funding have been key to help keep clubs alive in these troubling times. Staffordshire Rugby Union provided a second round of cash grants to its clubs in December to help them out during the unprecedented times caused by the impact of the coronavirus. The SRU acted quickly back in April 2020 to provide a cash injection when the pandemic brought a premature end to season 2019-20. With clubhouses closed again and the Rugby Football Union having announced at the start of December that all of its competitions at grassroots level for the whole of season 2020-21 were cancelled, the SRU surveyed its 27 member clubs for a financial update. The responses were considered and a range of grant awards were allocated to 17 of the 27 clubs according to need. It took the total sum of financial assistance provided by the SRU from its reserves and RFU budget close to £50,000 for the last eight months.

Staffordshire President/Chairman Rob Forsyth said, “We have clubs of various sizes within the county. Not all of them requested financial help but some, particularly those which provide community facilities for a variety of user groups and facilities available to hire for social functions, are really beginning to feel the pinch.” “We have done what we can to help but it is reassuring to know that clubs themselves are taking measures to reduce costs and seek financial assistance from other sources. We now await details about the Government Sport Winter Survival Package which are due out shortly.” It is still hoped that some form of rugby action will take place before next summer. The RFU cluster competitions, intended to replace the regular season, were cancelled but the SRU Competitions Committee is looking at staging its county cup competitions in revised formats should the pandemic restrictions ease enough for clubs to take the field in late spring.



Funding news

SporTedd support Teddington Women The local community group SporTedd awarded a grant of £1,300 to the Teddington Women’s Rugby, for six new tackle bags. Although the team cannot train currently due to pandemic restrictions, the new equipment will help the squad be ready to get up and go again as soon as they are lifted. Beyond COVID, the equipment will used for many years to come to continually develop new and existing players and work on aspects and techniques. SporTedd supports a wide range of sport-themed projects in the local area. Lou Allin from the Teddington Women's team said: “The equipment has arrived and looks amazing. Many thanks are due to SporTedd for their fantastic support. It makes a big difference, especially at this tough time for sport.” SporTedd member James Johnson, who helps assess the merit of all SporTedd applications said: “We are delighted to be able to support such a good cause as Teddington Women’s Rugby which is really growing in popularity in the area and will hopefully go from strength to strength in 2021”

Hemel Hempstead Camelot Rugby Club run to raise funds Hemel Hempstead Camelot Rugby Club is running 2,500kms during lockdown to raise money for the club and the Hospice of St Francis. Due to unprecedented support the club are doubling their fundraising target to £10,000 and if met, they promise to double the distance to an incredible 5,000km! Hemel Hempstead Camelot Rugby Club has pledged to run 1km during lockdown for every minute of rugby missed during the Coronavirus pandemic. 75% of funds raised will go to essential work needed at the club, with the remaining 25% being donated to Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted. Like hundreds of other local amateur rugby clubs up and down the country, Hemel Hempstead Camelot Rugby Club is having a difficult time right now. As a Community Amateur Sports Club


(CASC), the rugby club relies on match days, club lunches, events and beer sales to keep the doors open. Obviously, none of this is possible right now and it might be a while longer before they see their clubhouse packed out again at home games or during the Six Nations. By the club's calculations, the senior players alone have missed approximately 2,500 minutes of rugby since March 2020. From now until the end of lockdown (and beyond if needed!), the entire club is teaming up to run at least 1km for every minute of rugby that has been sadly missed due to the pandemic. That's just one month for a bunch of lads who hate running without a rugby ball to collectively run 2,500kms. That’s an astonishing 500kms a week for five weeks! Every player, parent, volunteer and mini is pulling their weight in order to achieve this rather ambitious target and every player taking part in the challenge will be donating too. All of this will be in aid of raising much needed funds for the club to renovate the kitchen and 25% of the money raised will also be donated to Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted. The Hospice of St Francis does incredible work within Hemel Hempstead and the surrounding area. Their funding has been severely hit by the pandemic at a time when some people need them more than ever, so as a club they wanted to give something back to such a wonderful organisation.

Blackburn RUFC smash funding target Blackburn RUFC would like to thank everyone that has supported their Restoration and Preservation Crowdfunder so far. They have reached well over 100 supporters and hit 25% of our £20,000 target. As a result of this, Sport England have pledged a huge £8,000 in support of the club under the Return to Play: Active Together funding. This is huge but it is just the beginning! They still have a long way to go to smash their target and raise the funds to make the restorations for when everyone is able to join them at the club again in the future!

Old Brodleians RUFC launch Project90 campaign Almost a year without matchdays, busy Sunday mornings, luncheons, dinners, parties, awards nights, Six Nations on the big screen, external functions, music festivals, family fun days, gin nights, curry competitions…….. But suddenly there’s now a real sense of change as everyone at Old Brodleians finally have light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. The global COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain landscape for grassroots sports clubs which is going to make it very challenging for them to survive - and like many other clubs, Old Brodleians is facing financial pressures with the on-going situation. 2020-21 should have been the club’s 90th anniversary season with a series of celebratory events to add to the rugby and their usual social program. It should have also been the year in which the club welcomed their biggest facility improvement project since the building of the clubhouse in 2003. However, with all the clubs revenue streams significantly impacted since last March, they reached out for support to help raise the funds to enable the clubs to continue our Project90 improvements.

This will allow them to continue to develop the club facilities for members old and new as well as the wider community they serve. When the rugby returns the club is hoping to welcome the arrival of an outstanding new training area, increased car parking, increased space available beneath floodlights and a quality new floodlit pitch. Old Brodleians will shortly be launching their Project90 Crowdfunder page to help them realise these ambitions and finally get some figures on the club’s balance sheet in what’s been an unprecedented trading year. The page will be packed with numerous ways to support the club including the opportunity to buy some quality England rugby stash, limited edition Brods merchandise and some outstanding signed souvenirs. A number of the club’s volunteers have been putting together the items and many of their teams have already started fundraising initiatives to support the cause.

Orrell RUFC receive support from Wigan MBC Orrell RUFC want offer a huge thank you to Wigan MBC for their support of their Crowdfunding campaign and donation of £1,000 to keep their club going and helping us get back to rugby (just as soon as they can).



Club funding: Hartlepool Rugby Club


A demonstration of kindness and support from the local community Hartlepool Rugby Club told Rugby Blindside about their recent financial challenges as a result of the UK lockdown and the response they received from the local community. Hartlepool Rugby Club was established in 1893 and will this season celebrate 50 years spent at their home, Mayfield Park.


Their most successful spell on the field came in the early part of the new millennium when they enjoyed two promotion campaigns, their highest ever league finish and three successive county cup wins between 2000 and 2002. Over the last decade the club has grown beyond all expectation from fielding just 4 teams to now boasting 15 across all age groups. There has been a significant increase in membership and Mayfield Park has become a vibrant hub for the local community, hosting teams from other sports and regularly holding well attended events. However, like the majority of grassroots sports clubs they have been significantly impacted by the effects of the pandemic. The lockdowns and subsequent suspension of all rugby has seen most of their revenue streams completely shut off, as Mini & Junior Chair Stewart Hind explains. "The situation is not unique to ourselves. All grassroots community sports clubs have faced many difficult challenges over the last ten or eleven months. Despite losing our main sources of income such as bar sales, private hire bookings and sponsorship, some bills still need to be paid.



Club funding: Hartlepool Rugby Club "As well as the financial stress placed on the club there has also been a big impact felt by our players and members. The bar is a social space where our members come to meet friends, while there is no rugby for our adult and junior players to enjoy. "The loss of these will have no doubt had a significant effect on the mental health and wellbeing of some throughout this period, and the sooner that we can get back to normal safely, the better. "We have all had to adapt and think outside of the box. Our members and local community have been absolutely fantastic in getting behind us and supporting various fundraising initiatives. "Luckily in November we were able to access the Sport England Crowdfunder grant. The basic premise was that if we could raise £10,000 inside 55 days, Sport England would match that with a £10,000 grant. "A fundraising page was set up and we promoted


our story online. We offered various incentives such as club memberships, entry to raffles, pre match lunches, sponsorship opportunities & more to encourage people to donate where they could. "The response from our community was incredible and unprecedented. In a little under a month we managed to raise £20,170, with the Sport England grant. This was an unbelievable demonstration of kindness and generosity from so many people who are facing these difficult times themselves. "We were truly humbled to see just how much Hartlepool Rugby Club means to local people. This money will now help us to navigate our way through the remainder of this pandemic financially, while allowing us to complete essential maintenance and invest in our facilities. When they finally emerge from this pandemic and the cycle of lockdowns, Hartlepool hope to carry on from where they left off and continue to go from strength to strength.



Player welfare: FYB Rugby survey

Grassroots rugby set for hopeful bounce back

Fill Your Boots Rugby recently conducted a survey with their audience in the grassroots rugby community amid playing uncertainty to investigate the appetite for the return to play in a post-COVID world. Grassroots rugby is set to see a bounce back of players, coaches and fans post COVID, according to the latest Fill Your Boots survey. With a potential way out of these unprecedented times, there is hope for the grassroots game, a game many thought would fade away in the circumstances. Of the respondents to the FYB survey, 99% of which were British or Irish, 77% said they would return to normal playing practice – a huge vote of confidence in the benefits rugby can bring both on and off the field. Some also suggested that they would take up the sport, while nearly 5% say they will not return to the sport as a player.


“I can see no reason to stop, and a return to rugby will be part of a return to normality,” one said. Another stated: “I think the measures put in place will make it safe, and it’s good exercise and good for my mental wellbeing.” However, when you compare this survey to our last (July 2020), the number of respondents who say they’ll return to the sport has fallen by 10%, nearly 20% now saying they’re 50/50 about returning (up from 11% in July) It is uncertain as to when grassroots rugby will return, yet many of the respondents are hoping for a date around September. “I love the game, it offers so much more than just playing rugby,” said one person who was eager for a grassroots return. Another said: “My son plays U7s and the values he

learns on the pitch are spot on, the club is a great part of the community.” Despite the optimism for a 2021/22 season, over 92% of the 360 plus respondents said the elongated break could damage the sport, with 73% of respondents certain of this. “No training can be done during lockdown and fixtures cannot be played, people have found other things to do on weekends,” said one respondent. Another said: “The club I play for has lost numbers big time”. “About a quarter came when we were allowed to play. Now with another break, those that were chunking it before lockdown will most certainly not come back. Those that were on the fence will now go too.”

In an open question surrounding the biggest grassroots challenges post COVID, the common consensus was finances and player retention. Grassroots rugby clubs are the bastions of local community, they, like other sports clubs and community centres, are the centre of wider, communal families. With such an uncertain future, these clubs could face closure, a removal of a community asset many won’t see until it’s gone. During, and post, COVID, grassroots clubs will need the help of everyone in the local community. With that, they can become that family and communal hub we have become used to over the countless years prior to these unprecedented times.



Commercial news

Greensleeves East Lothian sponsors minis selection boxes This year, the Christmas selection boxes for the minis section have been sponsored by Greensleeves East Lothian, a family-owned local business providing high quality lawncare at an affordable price. Greensleeves are one of the UK’s most popular lawncare providers, established over 20 years ago and run on a franchise basis. Greensleeves’ directors Robin and Mila Mainstone have both been involved with HRFC over the years with Robin having started his playing career as a self-confessed ‘chubby wee laddy’ in the club’s original mini-rugby section back in the 1970’s before going on to be a 1st XV regular in the 90’s and 00’s and captain of the 98-99 season unbeaten second XV. His last 1st XV appearance came in 2018 at the grand age of 49. Despite having grown up in the Czech Republic where rugby is very much a minority sport, Mila coached mini rugby for six years as well as being a member of the minis social committee and was a regular on café duty when not coaching. “Looking back on the number of rugby players HRFC’s mini section has produced over the years makes me really proud to be part of this club,” says Robin. “At the very top, we have had HRFC minis go on to be professional players and full-cap internationalists, 1st players at the highest level, club captains and coaches, but also let’s not forget HRFC minis have also produced countless players happy to just pull on a jersey on a Saturday afternoon and do their best on the park with their friends around them; ultimately that spirit of rugby is what counts.”

SG PETCH continue Darlington Mowden Park partnership Darlington Mowden Park are delighted to announce that SG Petch will continue their longstanding support of the club. The club’s principal sponsors have agreed to extend the partnership between the two parties as part of a multi-year agreement, having supported the club since their move to the Arena in 2013.


Asked about the extended deal DMP Chairman Mick Birch commented: “We’re absolutely delighted to continue our partnership with SG Petch. They have played a huge part in the club’s journey so far, from mini’s and juniors right through to our 1st teams, and we’re thrilled that they’ll continue to be a part of our club for years to come.” “After a testing period this is brilliant news for the club, and I’d like to thank everyone involved at SG Petch for their phenomenal support. We look forward to working with you all in the future and we can’t wait to welcome you back to the Arena!” The extended partnership will see the family-run multi franchised car dealership continue to appear on the front of the playing shirts for each of the club’s 27 teams. The North East firm will also continue to support the club’s growing event schedule, including the two upcoming concerts this summer. Craig Saunders, General Manager at SG Petch Darlington, added: “We are proud to be associated with Darlington Mowden Park and our relationship has grown from strength to strength over the past 8 years.” “SG Petch has long been associated with sport in Darlington and to see the success of the club has been fantastic. With 2 promotions under their belt, numerous individual success stories and a women’s Premier 15s side it really is an exciting club to be associated with. “We are also looking forward to live music resuming and will continue to support the live events at the club moving forward.”

Kettering RFC announce sponsor of Waverley's kitchen Enviroclean have agreed a three year sponsorship deal to sponsor Kettering RFC's Waverley's Kitchen and offer members a 10% Discount. Enviro Clean is a carpet & upholstery cleaning service used by 25,000 customers every year. The first Enviro Clean opened on February 4, 2016, in Chester, England, and from there the brand has grown throughout the U.K. and major cities around the world. The Club offers its grateful thanks for this brand new sponsorship in difficult times and hopes members of the Club will support Toby by using his services.

Facilities news

Camberley Rugby Club installs new floodlights Camberley Rugby Club are thrilled with the glow emanating from their new LED floodlights from Watchetts Park. The club has reduced their power demand and carbon impact, they have made it safer for players during evening training and increased the usable area to train on. “ I am thrilled to confirm we have our new floodlights installed and up and running. It has been a long time coming, but worth the wait. These new lights will allow us more use of the pitches and facilities during the evenings and opens the doors to evening games and events as we move into the new year.” Matt Channing CRFC Facilities. One of the clubs biggest concerns was the age and lack of function on the old lights. The facilities team have engaged numerous companies, negotiated a great deal and worked with a former Camberley player to bring more versatile, brighter and energy efficient lights to our training sessions.

Normanton Knights make facility improvements Normanton Knights ARLFC are pleased to announce that successful grant applications have been recently awarded for improvements to the clubs facilities. The club’s facilities officer, Neil Durant, commented that the continuing improvement of facilities is key to the clubs survival and its ability to serve local people. The club, originally established in 1879, recently celebrated it’s 140 year anniversary and its continued success depends on having modern facilities to enable it to serve the needs of the 300+ registered players. This comprises all junior age groups, through to open age and masters, along with girls teams. The recent successful grant applications are as follows: 1) Fencing for the club’s second field. This has been made possible, due to the support of the RFL Facilities Trust.

2) New LED Floodlights & Hire of Access Equipment. This has been supported by the Created By RLWC 2021 Capital Grants Legacy Programme. 3) New disabled/ baby change bathroom and redecoration of the club This is being funded by a combination of the Created By RLWC 2021 Capital Grants Legacy Programme, Sport England and Volunteer It Yourself (which utilise young mentored people to carry out the work and learn new skills and a future trade). These improvements, which follow on from an extensive refurbishment of the club’s changing room facilities undertaken four years ago (supported by Sport England, Wren, the RFL Facilities Trust and Wakefield Council) has ensured that the club’s facilities can accommodate the needs of all the players, members and supporters. In addition to the capital grants, during the Covid pandemic, the club has also successfully applied for cash grants from the RFL return to play fund, BARLA, Sport England and Government/Wakefield Council. These cash grants have ensured the future of the club and its ability to continue in what has been a difficult time for all grassroots sports clubs.

Rams Rugby celebrate new 300-seat stand RAMS CEO Gary Reynolds has hailed the progress being made on the new stand at Old Bath Road after taking a closer look. The 300-seat addition is well on its way to completion with the backing which will feature a stunning montage of Rams images to the rear - one of the final stages left to do. And checking out the work recently, Gary said: "It was great to see the progress Duncan Lynch have made with the stand and to see all the seats installed allows the mind to dream of what things will be like when it is packed out. "With the Government's announcement outdoor sport can return from next month, it appears there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel and we look forward to seeing members of the Ramily back at Old Bath Road as soon as it is safe and permitted to do so."



Opinion: Will Roberts

Creating a lasting legacy Will Roberts explores what the financial impact of the upcoming 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be on England's rugby league community game. The 2021 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC2021) hosted by England is set to kick off later this on Saturday 23rd October. This will be the sixth time that England has hosted the competition with 2021 set to be ground-breaking in many ways. This year the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments are being staged together for the very first time. The themes behind RLWC2021 are inclusion and inspiration with an main aim of creating lasting positive impact in lower socio-economic communities in England.




Opinion: Will Roberts Rugby League is way of life for communities especially in the northern parts of England and RLWC2021 wanted to provide a long-lasting legacy and positive impact on the community game. As part of this philosophy they developed the InspirationALL initiative which aims to develop and improve the wellbeing, economic and social situation for people living in these communities. Under the InspirationALL initiative is the CreatedBy RLWC2021 Capital Grants Programme which is dedicated to improving the environments where Rugby League takes place. It is government investment delivered in partnership by Rugby League World Cup 2021, the RFL, Sport England and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. To date this programme with its partners has provided 16 large scale grants totalling £10,090,029 and 128 small scale grants totalling £1,285,088. This money has gone towards renovating clubhouses, pitches and changing rooms as well as buying kit and equipment. As an example; Warrington Borough Council were awarded £600,000 for their Victoria Park project which will see a creation of a new 3G pitch at the council run facility used by various rugby league clubs. The investment will transform the stadium and surrounding area into a community hub for the development and growth of rugby league in Warrington. Back in November 2020 Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of the Rugby League World Cup 2021, said: “With exactly a year to go until our finals at Old Trafford our social impact programme is really making a difference. To achieve £10million worth of new projects that will leave a long-lasting legacy in community rugby league is fantastic. "As a tournament with a purpose we are dedicated to using the next twelve months to continue this much needed investment programme through the pledge that UK Government have made to the tournament.” The CreatedBy funding is not just going to clubs to develop facilities but it is being used to grow the game in England as a whole. Four Rugby League Referees Societies have been awarded almost £15,000 in order train, develop and encourage new referees into the community game. This is important because referees are often overlooked as a crucial part of any sport. Without


them games would simply not happen and there is no point developing facilities and growing the player pool without also increasing the number of referees. The immediate £11.4million funding from the CreatedBy programme is extremely helpful and impressive but what is even more significant is the potential additional funding that can be leveraged from this. As a comparison, the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup in England led to more than 520 clubs benefitting from £10million of RFU investment. This funding allowed clubs to improve facilities and make them a social and sporting hub for their local communities. The £10 million investment from the RFU was able to leverage an additional £30million more to spend on playing surfaces, club facilities and artificial pitches. The CreatedBy programme funding has especially been very welcomed by clubs over the last year because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Rugby League’s community game was hit harder than other sports in England like Rugby Union and Football. This is because the Rugby League season runs from February – October which means that when the first lockdown hit in March 2020 community clubs couldn’t even get their seasons off the ground. The reality is that many Rugby League community clubs have not benefitted from in-season footfall revenues since October 2019. The financial repercussions for Rugby League clubs not having their members in their clubhouses for a long period of time is only part of the problem. Generally, Rugby League is played by people from lower socio-economic communities. The 2019 Rugby League Dividends report stated that 46% of people who play Rugby League are from lower socio-economic groups. With nearly half of their players coming lower socio-economic backgrounds this makes Rugby League clubs a vital asset within their communities. Not only do Rugby League clubs provide people with a place where they are welcome, but the sport overall keeps people active in a positive sense. It keeps people engaged with their community and promotes positive behaviour.

The CreatedBy programme funding will trickle through these communities, raise people’s standard of living and have a positive impact on thousands of people’s lives for years to come.

The RFL has already announce that a phased return to community rugby will begin on 29th March with competitive games looking likely to start in early May.

I think for this reason huge plaudits should go to the RLWC2021 team for the work they have put in over the past 4/5 years. When they first sat down and thought about what legacy they intended to create from this competition I’m sure they would be very pleased with the results they have produced so far and the long-term results they will see in the future.

Community Rugby League clubs will then finally be able to welcome people back through their doors. Moreover, members and fans will be able to enjoy the improved facilities made possible through the CreatedBy funding programme.

These sentiments were echoed by Ralph Rimmer, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, who said: “The Rugby League World Cup is going to be the nation’s biggest celebration of international sport this year and with these grants our RLWC2021 partners are also building a legacy for our game beyond 2021.”

There is no doubt that this initiative by RLWC2021 shouldn't be viewed as anything else other than a success. It has funded clubs to help them improve and grow (especially at a time of crisis), it's focused its attention on the people, players and fans that need funding the most and it has created a lasting legacy that will positively impact Rugby League in this country for a long time.

In England there are signs of recovery from the pandemic through the increasing vaccination programme and declining coronavirus transmission statistics. This means Rugby League's clubs, players and fans can look at the remainder of 2021 in a positive light.



From the professional game

Cardiff Blues rebrand to Cardiff Rugby

Harlequins launch an LGBTQ+ Supporters’ Association

Cardiff Rugby have entered an exciting new era to fully embrace its rich history and heritage. Following extensive consultations with key stakeholders, Cardiff Blues can confirm they will become Cardiff Rugby for the 2021-22 season and beyond.

One year on from the Club’s inaugural LGBTQ+ Pride Game on February 15th 2020 Harlequins has launched an LGBTQ+ Supporters’ Association; following research across rugby and the media, the Club believe it is a global first for professional rugby.

As part of this evolution, an updated logo has been designed and the club will return to its traditional, world-famous colours of blue and black. This heralds a new era for the Cardiff Arms Park outfit with Dai Young back at the helm as Director of Rugby, plans advancing for a new training complex and a young and exciting squad.

In doing so, the Club continues its mission to champion diversity within rugby, use its platform to positively influence the experience of LGBTQ+ community in sport, and continue its work to make the matchday environment a safe and inclusive space for supporters from all sexual and gender identities.

New Edinburgh Rugby stadium completed Edinburgh Rugby and Scottish Rugby are delighted to announce the completion of the club’s new, purpose-built stadium. The £5.7 million ground is adjacent to BT Murrayfield and will hold around 7,800 supporters (around 5,800 seated and around 2,000 safe-standing), close to the action and under covered stands on all four sides. The stadium is now officially in the hands of the capital club and is the team’s first permanent home since its inception as a professional side in 1996 and as an amateur district select dating back to 1872. The completion of the project includes World Rugby certification for contact training and playing on the new state-of-the-art 3G surface, meaning the Edinburgh Rugby squad can now begin training in the ground. Under normal circumstances, the club would now be formulating plans to welcome fans for a celebratory opening event or fixture.

Premiership Rugby extend partnership with Land Rover

New Challenge Cup sponsors announced

Premiership Rugby has confirmed the renewal of its partnership with Land Rover, as their Official Vehicle Partner.

Betfred have secured the Rugby League “Double” for 2021, with a one-year deal to become title sponsors of the Challenge Cup to add to their long-running partnership with the Super League.

Dating back to 2002, Land Rover’s renewal with the Premiership Rugby cements the automotive brand’s commitment to supporting rugby at all levels in the UK; from grassroots to the elite. Land Rover’s support of grassroots rugby is typified through the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup; a national series of rugby festivals for Under-11 and Under-12 teams.


It means the Betfred Challenge Cup winners will be crowned at Wembley in July, with the Betfred Super League trophy to be presented at Old Trafford in October. The deal also includes sponsorship of the Women’s Challenge Cup, completing another double with the Betfred Women’s Super League.

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