Summer 2021 Issue - Rugby Blindside magazine

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Contents Features

In Focus

Opinion: Will Roberts 'Reset and rebuild' ...................................................................................................02 Featured: Colchester RFC 'A brand new home for Colchester RFC' ...................................................................................................06 Interview with David Barnes, Head of Discipline at the RFU' .....................................................................................................12 Featured: Farnham Rugby Club 'Farnham Rugby Club goes from strength to strength' .....................................................................................................16 Featured: Anselmians RUFC 'Major funding deal secures club improvements' ....................................................................................................22

Morgan Sports Law ....................................................................................................04 MINDSETPRO ....................................................................................................28

News Club news ...................................................................................................09 RFU & County news ...................................................................................................20 Facilities news ....................................................................................................24 Commercial news ....................................................................................................32 From the professional game ....................................................................................................36

Featured: London Scottish Rugby Club 'Career support given to players at London Scottish ' ....................................................................................................26 Opinion: Matt Hardy 'Rip out the pages: It's time to rewrite rugby's international chapter' ....................................................................................................32 Opinion: Dave Swanton 'Getting crowds back in' ....................................................................................................34

See page 16

See page 06

See page 12

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Opinion: Will Roberts

Reset and rebuild Reset and rebuild were the words used by Nigel Melville, Chairman of the Premiership Rugby Investor Board, after the RFU Council voted in favour of the COVID Recovery Plan. The plan, which is ‘aimed at improving the financial stability and sustainability of professional rugby during the next three seasons while also providing benefits for England Rugby and the community game’, was announced after the conclusion of the Premiership Rugby season. The announcement can be argued as domestic rugby’s biggest change in its recent history, and an inevitable change that many have seen coming for a few years. Now the decision has been made we need to look at what impact this will have at the elite level (Premiership), middle level (Championship) and lower level (community rugby). Some of the changes that have been introduced include the expansion of the Premiership to 14 clubs at the end of the 2021/22 season through the promotion (subject to meeting the required minimum standards) of the winner of the Championship, revised minimum standards criteria for clubs wishing to be promoted to the Premiership, a 2022/23 season in which no side will be relegated from or promoted to the new 14-team Premiership and a play-off in the 2023/24 season between the club finishing bottom of the Premiership and the winner of the Championship.

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There is a desire across English sport for a merit-based league system that includes jeopardy. The feared American model of sport with franchises and a fixed team league system is something that is widely unwanted in English rugby. The ring-fencing conversation has been discussed by rugby fans up and down the country, with the majority being against the idea. However, the RFU have stressed that the change presented is not ring-fencing and that promotion and relegation will be re-introduced when the COVID Recovery Plan comes to its natural end. It is understandable that there are concerns amongst rugby fans that the change is just a stepping stone to permanent ring-fencing and that the RFU may turn around and say in three years that ring-fencing is the way forward for the sport. I think the uproar if this were to happen would be extremely damaging for the RFU and the image of rugby as a whole. But if the RFU stick to their word and this is only a three-year plan, for me, it is the right move. It is a measured, sensible and realistic approach that addresses the problems faced by rugby clubs at the moment due to the pandemic and other factors. The RFU is right in saying that Premiership Clubs are losing money. Even before the pandemic collective season-by-season losses were on the rise. In 2017 these losses exceeded £40m, in 2018 this rose to £50m and

Premiership Clubs needed £88m in loans through the Government’s Winter Sports Survival package. This trend is worrying and stabilisation is needed. With a temporary pause on relegation clubs can stabilise their costs and look to establish long-term commercial partnership that can offer more certainty. Again, the importance is to make sure that this change is not permanent and is only a transitory solution to get clubs pointed in a positive direction again. If it’s only temporary I can see nothing but benefits for the clubs competing at the elite level. An interesting point also outlined in the proposed change is: “revised minimum standards criteria for clubs wishing to be promoted to the Premiership”. The phrasing that stood out to me here is ‘wishing to be promoted’. The wording suggests that the RFU thinks that there are some clubs currently competing in the Championship that do not want to get promoted to the Premiership. It might be that the clubs in question do not currently have the means to compete at the elite level because of the current system and this is the reason they do not wish to be promoted. Or, the changes needed to become an elite club might also be too great for some clubs which makes it unrealistic. Either way an honest appraisal of intentions by clubs at this level and the RFU is needed for the sport to grow. For me it’s a two-way street. If you’re a club that wants

to compete at the highest level then you need to demonstrate this by meeting the RFU’s requirements. If a club does this, the RFU has to support their growth and development to becoming an elite club to help grow the game as a whole. Over the course of the next three years six clubs in the second tier of English rugby may prove that they have the resources and capability to compete at the elite level. If this happens then English rugby could be looking at having twenty elite clubs across two competitive leagues with promotion and relegation. Having a carefully managed production line of clubs turning professional and being able to sustain professionalism will grow the game. The negative side for the proposed change is that I do not see the benefit, short-term or long-term, for clubs at the community level. The RFU is claiming that increased revenues from clubs at the top of the pyramid will feed down to the community game. This may happen but how much and its impact is very questionable. It’s obvious that the decision has been made with the professional game in mind and the community game is an after-thought. For now, we can only wait and see if the announced changes to English rugby will work. My head tells me that changes were needed, my gut tells me that if done right this might work.

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Featured: Morgan Sports Law

Payments to Players under RFU Regulation 7 Ben Cisneros, Trainee Solicitor at Morgan Sports Law discusses RFU Regulation 7 and its impact on how the community game is governed. Since the start of the 2019/20 season, English rugby clubs whose men’s first XVs play at Level 3 and below have been subject to a ‘soft’ salary cap. The so-called “Payment Threshold” in RFU Regulation 7 has created a new governance challenge for clubs and the RFU alike and has, in its first two seasons, already caused controversy. The Payment Thresholds decrease the lower the club’s level, and the basic premise is that clubs paying above the relevant Payment Threshold will be ineligible for RFU Benefits (i.e. funding). To enforce the system, clubs are required to submit annual declarations, and failure to do so accurately will attract disciplinary consequences. In 2020, Rams RFC and Plymouth Albion RFC both felt the wrath of the RFU’s disciplinary process, having failed to comply with the letter of the regulations, revealing an uncomfortable tension in the community game. Both Rams and Plymouth completed their annual declaration inaccurately, failing (by mistake) to declare that they were providing their players with Material Benefits, and were hit with 20-point deductions (15 of which were suspended for two years), on top of losing all RFU Benefits for the following season. Having introduced the Payment Threshold to curb the effects of professionalism below the RFU Championship, the RFU’s approach to enforcement ultimately seeks to hold clubs to a professional standard. These cases raise important issues of governance for clubs, the RFU and the game as a whole. Club Compliance The most obvious takeaway for clubs from the cases of RFU v. Rams RFC and RFU RFU v. v. Plymouth Plymouth Albion RFC RFC is the

importance of complying strictly with RFU Regulation 7. Regulation 7.4.1 requires all clubs whose men’s first XVs play at Level 3 and below (who wish to be entitled to RFU Benefits) to submit an annual declaration each season in respect of “any Gross Payments of Material Benefits paid or payable between 1 June of the previous year and 31 May of the current season”. In both the Rams RFC and Plymouth Plymouth Albion Albion cases, there was confusion over the precise meaning of the term “Material Benefits”, which both clubs’ administrators mistakenly took to mean benefits paid to players outside

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of wages/salary (akin to ‘benefits in kind’ one might declare to HMRC). In fact, and crucially, Regulation 7.2 defines “Material Benefit” as including money (salaries, match fees, bonuses etc.) as well as any non-monetary benefits. Notably, clubs are required to declare all “Gross Payments” to players, meaning all Material Benefits plus “all payments payable in respect of such Material Benefit” – i.e. national insurance contributions, income tax and agents fees. Certain expenses, such as the reimbursement of travel costs to away matches, medical treatment and insurance cover, are excluded from the declaration requirement. The relevant Payment Thresholds also make allowances for payments to “Player Coaches”. Clubs must also ensure that they submit their annual declaration during the “submission window” commencing on 1 March and closing on 30 June each season, and that they do so with great care. As made Plymouth Albion, Albion once a declaration is clear in Plymouth submitted, it cannot be withdrawn and/or amended. The declaration must be submitted via the Game Management System (GMS) portal, and there is helpful guidance for clubs on the RFU’s website, which clubs (and/or their advisors) would be well-advised to read. Importantly, four club officers are required to sign the declaration and, if clubs are paying Material Benefits, they must file supporting documentation evidencing the payments which are made. This inevitably places an administrative burden on clubs Plymouth Albion Albion put it, and, as the Appeal Panel in Plymouth requires “an appropriate level of governance”. Given the challenges of this process, clubs ought to nominate an individual to take responsibility for the club’s compliance with Regulation 7 and ensure that they properly understand its requirements. Clubs may also wish to take professional advice (be it from a sports lawyer or suitably qualified accountant), to avoid falling into difficulties. Disciplinary Process As noted above, failure to submit an accurate declaration will be a breach of the regulations and attract disciplinary consequences. Clubs are not required to submit a declaration at all (they would

simply be ineligible for RFU Benefits) but, if they do submit a declaration, the declaration must be accurate. For clubs facing disciplinary action, a further lesson from Rams RFC and Plymouth Plymouth Albion Albion is that, often, it is preferable to admit breaches of the regulations and to focus on mitigating the sanction than to fight the charges tooth and nail. Unless there are truly exceptional circumstances, arguing that the charges ought not to have been brought (as Plymouth Albion did) is unlikely to get very far and, as Plymouth Albion found out, failing to accept the charges can make it more difficult to seek a reduction of the eventual sanction. Whilst Rams RFC were arguably more culpable than Plymouth Albion for their breach of Regulation 7, Rams RFC’s acceptance of the charge against them counted in their favour when it came to sanctioning. Moreover, the sanctioning process is a highly discretionary one and, as such, clubs would be wise to instruct specialist legal counsel to represent them in any RFU disciplinary proceedings. Although Rams RFC and Plymouth Albion Albion have arguably set a precedent, the Plymouth severe sanctions imposed would, in this author’s opinion, not be beyond challenge, for the reasons discussed below. Proportionality and Enforcement At the conclusion of the disciplinary cases against them, Rams RFC and Plymouth Albion were both handed 20point deductions (15 of which were suspended for two years) and lost all RFU Benefits for the following season (including, at least for Plymouth Albion, COVID-19 support). In this author’s view, such sanctions were wholly disproportionate to the nature of the breaches. There was no intent to deceive the RFU; the clubs simply made mistakes, in the first year that they had had to comply with the new regulations in full. Nonetheless, Plymouth Albion estimated the cost of losing RFU Benefits as being approximately £20,000 and, though much of the points deduction was suspended, its potential effect on the club’s league position is significant. Notably, and by way of contrast, under the Premiership Rugby Salary Cap Regulation 2020-21, a 15-point deduction would be the sanction for a salary cap breach of £200,000 to £400,000. The severity of the punishment under Regulation 7 far outweighs the severity of the breach and would, in this author’s view, be legally challengeable. Furthermore, such heavy sanctions run contrary to the interests of the community game. Whilst the RFU’s aim of promoting compliance with a system designed to curb the professionalization of the game’s lower leagues is a laudable one, the financial penalty risks compromising many clubs’ already fragile balance sheets and the severe points deductions risk leaving players disillusioned. When community clubs are,

struggling for both funds and players, the sanctions seem counterintuitive. This author would advocate for reforms to be made to Regulation 7 to provide for more graduated sanctioning dependent on the nature of the breach in question. The loss of RFU Benefits ought not to be automatic for inaccurate declarations, and administrative errors ought only to be punished with moderate financial penalties (dependent upon their severity). Points deductions should be reserved for breaches which affect sporting competition, such as deliberately or recklessly concealing payments to players (which should also result in the loss of RFU Benefits). The present system is draconian. Underlying Tension Regulation 7 and its enforcement by the RFU, as demonstrated by Rams RFC and Plymouth Albion, Plymouth Albion reveal an underlying and uncomfortable tension in the English community game: that between amateurism and professionalism. On one hand, the RFU has introduced Regulation 7 to prevent the over-professionalisation of the community game whilst, on the other, creating a system which requires a degree of professionalism to administer. Perhaps, if all clubs at Level 3 and below abstained from paying their players, these issues would fall away, and perhaps the administrative burden of Regulation 7 is simply the price the clubs must pay for not doing so. But the reality is that many of these clubs are not professional outfits and are (often) run by volunteers and/or inexperienced administrators. The amateurprofessional tension is palpable, and, in this author’s view, a more balanced approach is required.

Article by Ben Cisneros. Ben is a Trainee Solicitor at Morgan Sports Law, a boutique law firm focused exclusively on resolving sports-related disputes, and is the founder of For any rugby-legal enquiries, please contact Ben at or on +44 (0) 7949 828031, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @rugbyandthelaw.

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Facilities: Colchester RFC

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A brand new home for Colchester Rugby Club Colchester Rugby Club President, Maggie Whiteman, told Rugby Blindside about the club's new state of the art facilities and what they mean to the club. Not only can Colchester boast being the oldest recorded town in Great Britain but it can now be equally proud of having an amazing, brand new, state of the art and purpose built rugby club. The Club was co-founded in 1925 by a Kiwi doctor, Alfred Nolan-Fell, which explains why the team strip is all black, however the away strip is red, which reflects the town’s colours. Our badge features Colchester’s raven, hence the naming of the new club; Raven Park. We are in the process of thinking of names for our function rooms to reflect the history of the Club, something of which we are truly proud. The facility has the use of 2 AGP pitches and 7 grass pitches, alongside 8 changing rooms, each with integral facilities and 3 function rooms. The Club’s crowning feature is a covered balcony which runs the whole length of the Clubhouse and will prove to be the most popular place to watch the rugby. Due to Covid restrictions, the Club has been restricted to outdoor activity over recent weeks, however we look forward to opening the Clubhouse fully towards the end of July with our very first 10s Tournament in memory of Tom Miller - a brilliant young rugby player who tragically lost in life in December 2020. Tom was an ambassador for Odd Balls and proceeds from this event will go towards this charity. Rugby-wise, the Club runs 5 senior sides, with the 1st XV playing at level 6 in London North. The team missed out on the opportunity for promotion in the 2019-20 season due to the abrupt end of all sport when the lockdown hit in March 2020, however they are preparing themselves for another shot when the new season starts in September. On Sundays over 600 Mini & Youth players have either training or matches from U6s to Colts. The budding Iceni Women’s team train on Wednesdays and Touch Rugby for all ages & stages meets on Fridays for fitness and fun. Like most rugby clubs in the country, we just would not function without a host of volunteers from those who sit on the Executive Committee to coaches, parent reps and managers. You name it and we need a volunteer, apart

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Facilities: Colchester RFC from employing Claire our full time General Manager and Dawn our Catering Manager. It was all hands on deck on the 1st and 8th May when an army of volunteers, plus vans and trucks turned up at our old Clubhouse in Mill Road to move everything over to our new home - a home that had been in the pipeline for 8years! It took many hours but it was literally like a family moving home - with much banter and good humour. That’s what’s so brilliant about rugby - it is about family and the respect we have for all who play, have played, those who hold the whistle, those who encourage young players and all who just love to watch. Colchester RFC is always keen to be part of the community and each year we hold two main events. In the spring we organise a Community Day in aid of local charities. At this you will see stalls, a fun fair for children, touch & 7s rugby, performers and a range of food offers alongside a beer tent. In November we hold a spectacular fireworks evening. Hopefully now that the pandemic is coming under control we can return to sharing our new facilities with the community of Colchester. We are also very fortunate to be supported by many local businesses whose sponsorship is invaluable and they have been an integral part in our move, helping to finance important aspects of the Club such as TV screens, electronic scoreboard, storage equipment, kit and office furniture. So for Colchester RFC the future looks bright and we

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hope to open the Club ‘officially’ before Christmas with a formal dinner and prestigious speaker - fingers crossed! We know that we are very lucky and the stewards of wonderful facilities that we want to use for the benefit of the great game of rugby, for our members and the wider community. It's an exciting time for Colchester Rugby and we look forward to a better 2021-22 season. As I am sure everyone can appreciate, it has been difficult to build momentum, but the club move has come at just the right time. Raven Park is an inspiring environment and it is now up to our coaches and players to drive Colchester Rugby onward and upward, ultimately delivering a brand and standard of rugby that is commensurate with our new home. If you should ever visit the oldest recorded town in Britain then please do come and visit its newest rugby facilities at Raven Park; Cuckoo Farm Way, Colchester CO4 5YX.

Club news

London Welsh announce John Taylor as Club President

commentator for talk sport and during the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the UK he was the main stadium announcer at Twickenham.

Following the sad death of club President John Dawes, long time co-President John Taylor takes the helm!

However, JT's first love in the game still remains London Welsh RFC and there are few more enthusiastic in the crowd on match day than JT. The club is confident that JT will tackle his duties with aplomb and do the memory of his great friend John Dawes proud. JT is rugby royalty in the truest sense and everyone at London Welsh wishes him success and enjoyment in the role over the coming years.

To those familiar with London Welsh, it is not unusual to be rubbing shoulders with great names of the international game both past and present. As a club they are blessed to have had many of the worlds greatest names grace the turf at Old Deer Park over the years; on any given match day many such names can be seen under the watchful eye of the pagoda at Kew, taking in the atmosphere with a packed home crowd. It is from such a blessed position that the club have been privileged for decades to have had John Dawes as their figure head, leading the face of the club as their coPresident. It was in 2018 that John's fellow London Welsh legend, friend and team mate, John Taylor joined him as co-club President in sharing what is a substantial role within such a famous and historic name in world rugby. Following the sadness and reflection this month in the death of John Dawes, it is now with optimism and steely determination that London Welsh are delighted to confirm that John Taylor will continue with the role as the sole Club President. John takes charge of a club galvanised and focused following 4 out of 5 years in the so dubbed '5 year plan', following our project reset in 2017. The club has seen 3 straight promotions in as many seasons over that period and the interlude that has been the global pandemic has only strengthened resolve. John is raring to go as they look to hit the 2021/22 season with conviction when pre-season commences on 15 June with some exciting new signings and a mouth watering pre-season fixture list.

The club looks forward to welcoming members, supporters and friends back to Old Deer Park for their first home game of the 2021/22 season so that they can celebrate with JT as the club kicks on to the next phase.

Chester RUFC launch Headguard Programme After such a strange year, the club recognises the huge strain upon their players, coaches and families and they really wanted to develop a mental health scheme which allows for every member of their rugby family to feel comfortable and supported enough to ask for help or guidance should they need it. The statistics regarding child mental health are troubling, and with so much media focus upon opening up the conversations around mental health, the club's committee really wanted to have a system in place to allow for that support to be available, and for conversations to become normalised. They were really happy to be able to share with their club members their HeadGuard programme, launched at the start of National Mental Health Awareness week. This is the first initiative of its kind in the North West, possibly the UK, aimed at the youth players of a club.

John Taylor is of course no stranger to the limelight: John (known throughout his playing career as Basil Brush for his distinctive hair style, and known to his London Welsh Family simply as JT) played 26 times for Wales and toured in 1968 (South Africa) and 1971 (New Zealand) with the British & Irish Lions, playing all 4 tests in 1971 in a famous winning tour to New Zealand (one of 7 London Welsh players on that tour!).

The club has been working with Sale Sharks and Looseheadz who are fully supporting the HeadGuard programme and have been very open at how progressive Chester RUFC are with getting a programme in place for Mental Health Awareness, and they look forward to developing awareness events and training session with them in the near future.

JT is almost as famous for his moral fortitude: in 1969/70 he refused to play for Wales against a touring South African side in a stance against the apartheid regime in that country. Again in 1974 JT declined the opportunity to tour with the Lions in South Africa on the same grounds.

"LooseHeadz are very proud to be aligned with Chester RUFC on their mission to support the mental health of their players, members and volunteers. We’re excited to get started and hopefully this can be the start of a special partnership where together we can #TackleTheStigma" - Rob Shotton, Founder of Looseheadz.

Following retirement from his playing career JT kept his strong links with the Lions in a non-playing capacity, being a member of touring parties in that role since 1983. He also then went on to become the lead rugby commentator for ITV sport, commentating on the 2003 England Rugby World Cup victory. JT was also lead

Eddie Owens, Mental Health lead at Sale Sharks, said: "Really excited to see Chester RUFC are making mental health part of their agenda at their club, after the last 12 months. Excellent to see all the progress that’s being made."

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Club news Chester RUFC feel incredibly lucky to have Mark and Andy agree to help head up this initiative, they will be available at the club on Sundays, but neither will mind having a chat if anyone needs some guidance. A huge thanks to them.

Crowborough RFC announce new General Manager The Club is extremely pleased to welcome Louise Greenaway to Crowborough Rugby Club as it’s new General Manager. Louise has worked in the hospitality and events industry for over 20 years and most recently has been responsible for the day to day running of the bar, food and events at Nizels Golf and Country Club, As an ex rugby player herself (East Grinstead), she is passionate about all things rugby and was extremely excited when her professional career led her to oversee all hospitality for the French rugby squad during the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. This passion will now continue by joining the Crowborough RFC family. About her new role Louise said: “I am very excited to being joining Crowborough Rugby Club and getting to know you all. Linking my professional life with my passion for grassroots rugby is something I have wanted to do for a while and this was an opportunity I felt was too good to miss. I look forward to working closely with Nigel, Mike, Jacqui, the Friday Club and all the players, coaches and volunteers to make this a really enjoyable place to visit to meet friends, have fun, have a drink or two and something to eat, not just after rugby training and matches but in the evenings and weekends. I can’t wait to get started and see you all soon”

Fullerians RFC appoints new Chair of Junior Rugby Fullerians RFC has announced the appointment of Jules Goodair as its new Chair of Junior Rugby. Jules will take over the position on the club’s management committee when their current Chair of Junior Rugby, Martin Newman, steps down at the end of this season. Jules has been part of the Fullers team for over 6 years. Her own family are very much rooted in the club, Husband Neil coaches both the U12 boys & U15 girls, Son Charlie plays for the U12’s, Daughter Nell used to be part of the U15’s and she herself plays for the Women’s team. Being born and bred in Yorkshire playing the Union game has not always gone down well with her Yorkshire family, she blames Alban for hood winking her to join an Inner Warriors session where she became hooked to our beloved game.

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Away from Fullerians Jules is MD for a Global Design Agency, mum of two teenagers and a nutty Spaniel. Malcolm Harrison, Fullerians RFC Chairman, said “I am delighted welcome Jules onto the committee and into this important role within the club. Jules brings significant experience to the club’s committee as a player herself and as a parent of young players, as well as her huge experience in the worlds of media and brand design and management. I would like to thank Martin Newman for his service to the club as Chair of Junior Rugby, he is handing over to Jules a vibrant and growing section of the club.”

Bury St Edmunds announce new Chairman Speaking about his appointment Craig Germeney said: "I have been associated with Bury Rugby club for the past 6 years as a parent, a coach, a sponsor, a volunteer and minis chairperson. I have been a part of all of this because Bury Rugby Club is an exceptional club full of outstanding people. "The people make Bury Rugby club, be it employees, volunteers, coaches, sponsors, players or supporters each and everyone plays a part in making this club what it is and I hope that they will continue to work with me to build on the strong foundations already laid as we strive for further ambitious improvements whilst considering and being sympathetic to the clubs history. These strong foundations are testament to the hard work of many people over the years and it would be remis of me not to thank the more recent members that have dedicated their time and efforts to deliver our club where it is today. Firstly David Reid for his time as chairman. It has been a very difficult ship to steer, especially during covid times but his hard work and dedication has helped the club survive whilst many others have struggled and leaves it is a strong position for me to move forward on. "I am pleased that David continues to support the club as our New treasurer and look forward to working with him closely during my tenure. This nicely brings me on to also thanking Chris Reeves Simon Lord who David has already thanked but I would also like to recognise for their hard works and length of service. Thanks to them all and thanks to those of you who have filled new positions within the exec: Andy Herlihy – Honorary Secretary and Ben Bishop – Youth Chair and Barry Cole as Vice President. I look forward to working with all of you as we take Bury rugby club on its next journey. I have ambitious plans for Bury Rugby club and have been working behind the scenes to develop a five year strategy “vision 25” which will set out clear goals and what we need to do to achieve them. Prior to the final role out of our 5 year strategy, before the start of the season I intend to engage with all of our staff, section leaders and core volunteers to further

understand the club, the challenges they have and create some common, ambitious and clear goals for us all to work towards. To set the scene and provide a feel of our ambitions we plan to: Build on our one club ethos, promotion to national 1, increased engagement and development of the female game, recognition of our volunteers, Develop our staff and coaches, further improve our community rugby, create a sustainable commercial model and improve our facilities through extension of the club house and grandstand which I hope we can achieve by 2025 to mark the clubs centenary year. "It is also important as we reach 50 years in March 24 since we lost players and family members in the Paris air crash to we work on something special to recognise this. Finally, I have always been open that I have never played Rugby but I have grown fond of the game and the people and look forward to learning from Terry, Nick and Jacob and the players. What I lack in rugby knowledge I can definitely make up for in enthusiasm, drive and ambition and having just retired following the sale of my business which we grew to nearly £100m turnover I am now in a magnificent position to be able to afford the time and focus to Bury Rugby Club. However I do plan to try and get my golfing handicap to single figures so it won’t be full time, which brings me nicely onto the Bury Rugby Golf day on 13th August, only 3 teams left and plenty of slot for dinner only so let me know if you want to get booked in!"

Bracknell Rugby Club appoint new Ladies coach As Bracknell Rugby Club's senior ladies’ team wished head coach David Rosi good luck for the future as he hung up the boots for retirement ladies coaches Stuart Evans, Carl Mauger and Matt Randall stepped until a replacement was found. With Chair of Rugby Paul Laidler and Chairman Ian Wilson taking on the task to find a new Head coach they did not want just anyone that applied for the role but someone with ambition, drive and also able to help the club's girls players transition in to the world of senior rugby with ease.

“My name is Gareth Griffiths and I have been coaching rugby for the last 4 seasons previously at Supermarine ladies RFC in the championship 1 south Division, where we had a number of successful seasons including winning the RFU Intermediate cup. I am really excited and honoured to be appointed head coach of Bracknell Ladies RFC, my aim is to grow and establish the team. Creating development, growth, Ambition and an environment that will create their own success as a team and club. With my Experience and ambition as a women’s rugby coach I believe I will lead the team forward in to a new era”

Tynedale RFC launch health initiative As part of a campaign to extend present health support to their players Tynedale Rugby Club have announced a new extended partnership with Cognisant. The relationship will provide not only concussion support services but also promotion of overall brain health to players from the Under 12 Age Group up to First XV. Cognisant is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company providing support to sports organisations protecting brain health of their players. This includes assessment and advice regarding the effects of brain injury (concussion) and, more widely, the promotion of positive mental health. Cognisant provide this service through education, training, and integration of baseline and postconcussion assessments. They also provide specialist clinical services when needed. Jojo Maddison, Tynedale Head of Physiotherapy comments, “We have worked with Dr David Millar and his colleagues for a while now, mainly with the 1st team squad, and have been overwhelmed by the knowledge and expertise this brings. At Tynedale Rugby Club, we have always taken player welfare very seriously, and although we have always had extensive concussion protocols, I am very excited to implement this new progressive partnership.

With this in mind they found the ladies new head coach Gareth Griffiths who was ready to lead the ladies and meet the requirements set out!

Regardless of age or gender every Tynedale Player involved in the contact game will have access to the best clinical support available in rugby.

The ladies had their first training session with the new coach and nothing but positive feedback was heard.

This initiative doesn’t just provide structured support to my Physiotherapy team to make robust clinical decisions but also gives confidence to the coaching staff and parents that the player’s welfare is at the forefront”.

With preseason to look forward to the ladies are eager to get the boots on and work put in ready for the 2021/22 league under Gareth, as well as breaking him in with the famous Bracknell ladies’ socials! Gareth was asked what his plans are for the ladies and about his previous experience in the game:

The partnership will be launching ready for the 20212022 season and all players, coaches and parents will be provided with further detail before commencement of the season.

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Governance - Interview: David Barnes

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Interview with David Barnes, Head of Discipline at the RFU Rugby Blindside recently spoke with David Barnes about the role of the Discipline Department within the RFU. A little about you… Can you tell us a bit about your background? I have been RFU Head of Discipline since 2017, having previously held the roles of Chairman and Rugby Director at the Rugby Players Association. Upon completing my degree at Durham University I was lucky enough to catch the start of professionalism and moved straight into the Premiership winning squad at Newcastle Falcons. A move to Harlequins followed before I spent the majority of my playing career at Bath, where I retired from playing in 2011. During my time as a player, I was always focused on having a role away from the playing field and focused a lot of my time representing the Rugby Players Association as their Chairman, which in turn give me an invaluable insight into the running and administration of the game in England.

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Governance Can you tell us more about your role as Head of Discipline at the RFU? The RFU Head of Discipline has a wide remit and is responsible for overseeing all on field discipline, citing in the top leagues and for investigating any breaches of RFU regulations. The Head of Discipline is the only person in regulation who can issue charges against any person or club. The RFU discipline team is directly responsible for the top 4 men’s leagues, the Allianz Premier 15s and the BUCS Super Rugby competition. In a normal year, we would be responsible for presenting approximately 150 cases. Responsibility for discipline in the lower leagues is mostly delegated to the Constituent Bodies (CBs) who see approximately 1500+ cases a year. We are responsible for ensuring that the many volunteers that give their time up to administer the game are appropriately trained and supported throughout the season. How does the RFU Disciplinary Department interact with community clubs in helping to maintain rugby’s core values? Rugby prides itself on its core values of, Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship and we work closely with the CB discipline teams to ensure that these are upheld at all times. There are so many amazing people in the game who give up so much of their time to ensure others can enjoy our sport and thankfully instances of behaviour against the core values are low. However, as a game we all understand the importance of protecting these values and I work closely with the local discipline teams to proactively work with the game but also to act when we see behaviour that is not in line with our values. We have a renewed focus on ensuring that the match officials are given the appropriate respect at all levels of the game and support all the CBs in issuing charges against players, coaches and spectators that abuse or disrespect any match official. Rugby is not alone in facing issues involving the use of social media and postings that are clearly not in line with the core-values. This will be a key focus for us over the next season and we will be educating first but then issuing charges against people whose postings fall short of what is expected. How does the disciplinary process differ for age-grade rugby compared with senior rugby? The age-grade disciplinary process focuses on a child centric approach, in that people who know the player, often people within their own club, are responsible for

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administering the disciplinary process. There is a specific age-grade sanction table that is typically less than the adult sanction process and is also measured in matches as opposed to weeks. This ensures that players who play at schools and clubs are not unfairly punished for any offence. Each CB is required to have an age-grade discipline secretary who has experience in dealing with age-grade players and is able to assist all clubs with any discipline issues. For age-grade players there is a focus on keeping them involved in the game, addressing any discipline issues but most importantly, helping them understand the core values that we expect of all our players. As well as on-field incidents, the RFU Discipline Department also looks at off-field cases in rugby. Can you tell us more about this area of game regulation? The RFU Discipline department is responsible for overseeing any breach of the RFU regulations and in a normal season that will include breaches related to player registrations, competitions and financial/ Payment of Player regulations. Within the RFU, the discipline team sits within the wider legal and governance team and we work closely on ensuring that all the regulations are complied with. Each season will present a unique set of regulatory cases for the RFU to deal with. These often are the more complex issues we have to investigate and often involve the need for us to instruct specialist outside counsel. In the last season we have seen a number of misconduct cases for breaches of the COVID protocols, the cancellation of the England v Barbarians match being the highest profile example, which resulted in sanctions for a large number of players. During a normal season we would also expect to see a number of integrity cases involving breaches of the betting and anti-doping rules. Whilst a lot of work is done proactively educating the game on these issues, there are still a number of people who breach the regulations and receive significant bans as a result. Anyone who has spent time reading through the vast RFU regulatory handbook will be aware of the multitude of regulations that are in place to ensure the game continues to thrive, at all levels. It is essential that we ensure that these regulations, all put in place by the games representatives, the RFU Council, are consistently applied to each club, at every level.

Doping is a continuous issue faced by the RFU Discipline Department. Can you tell us about the initiatives taken in tackling this issue? The RFU’s mission is to protect the spirit of rugby from being undermined by doping and to protect a player’s fundamental right to participate in Clean Sport.

all close contacts have been identified correctly. Coronavirus has also brought significant change to the discipline process. Traditionally players, at both an RFU and CB level, would be required to attend discipline hearings in person.

The RFU prioritises education and testing in the fight for Clean Sport, which involves initiatives such as outreach events, academy education days, online training and club seminars.

However, despite some initial reluctance, all hearings have been run on video calls. Video hearings allow greater flexibility for the players without compromising the process and this is something that will be continued moving forward.

These initiatives have been specifically designed to deliver key education messages to the appropriate target groups.

With the ground restrictions, the Citing Officers, have been unable to attend grounds and have also been working on a remote basis.

Intelligence led testing takes place throughout the game and is coordinated through our close strategic partnerships with UK Anti-Doping and World Rugby.

We have been fortunate to have been well supported by the TV companies who have ensured they could still get all the additional non-broadcast angles of any incidents and this in turn has ensured the process has continued to work without any decline in standards.

How does the RFU Discipline Department uphold the RFU Safeguarding policy? Whilst the RFU Safeguarding and Discipline departments operate independently, there is a coordinated approach to many of the issues that we face as a sport. Often issues that we become aware of in the age-grade game involve aspects that involve Safeguarding and also discipline for regulatory breaches. We will always work together to ensure that the child is protected and that any regulatory or discipline issues that we become aware of during any investigation are addressed at the same time as any safeguarding concerns. The RFU Discipline department is also responsible for representing the RFU in an any appeal processes and ensuring that any safeguarding barring orders are strictly followed. How has the coronavirus impacted the RFU Discipline Department? Like all sports, Coronavirus has had a huge impact on Rugby. From a practical point of view, the discipline department has been responsible for ensuring that the health and wellbeing of the players is paramount during this period and this has meant that we have been responsible for overseeing the compliance of the COVID protocols within all clubs. This has involved instructing a newly formed team of people to visit clubs throughout this period and, working on an education first policy, help the clubs through this difficult period.

The team have also had a role in the independent oversight of any contact tracing processes to ensure that all close contacts have been identified correctly. Coronavirus has also brought significant change to the discipline process. traditionally players, at both an RFU and CB level, would be required to attend discipline hearings in person. And finally, what are your future plans for the RFU Discipline Department? The Discipline department is no different to any RFU department in that we are accountable to our member clubs and are always looking at ways to improve what we do, collaborate with the clubs/ CB’s and challenge the way we currently do things. The last 18 months have allowed us to change many processes, virtual hearings and better use of technology being an obvious one. These changes will make huge efficiency gains and reduce volunteer workload. In terms of approach, I expect to see a slight change in approach, especially within the age-grade game to a more restorative practises approach to sanctioning. Whilst simple match bans have a place for certain offences, I am excited by the work coming out of NZ where a new approach to sanctioning is seeing positive impacts on the players and the club as a whole. We expect to trial this approach across certain areas this season. Like everyone else, I hope that the Coronavirus restrictions will be behind us next season and we can all look forward to some form of normality moving forward.

The team has also had a role in the independent oversight of any contact tracing processes to ensure that

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Facilities: Farnham Rugby Club

Farnham Rugby Club goes from strength to strength Farnham Rugby Club recently told Rugby Blindside about their new club facilities that were built by the community for the community. At the outset of the 2021/22 season Farnham Rugby Club will open a purpose-built conditioning and rehab facility to its members. The facility features weights stations, rowing machines and exercise bikes plus loads of other gear including pushing sleds and battle ropes for use on the Astro surface that fronts the building. It will be staffed by a professional fitness coach and its use will be free to senior and junior squads for official training sessions and to players requiring rehab after injury. Members wishing to access the facility for their own personal use will pay a small uplift to their membership fee. Over 1000 people play rugby at Farnham RFC every week. The club has a massive Mini & Junior section; a huge Academy for those transitioning from Junior rugby to Senior rugby; a thriving O2 Touch section; a rapidly growing and very successful Women’s section; and regularly fields 5 senior men’s teams with the 1st XV playing in London 1 South.

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Facilities: Farnham Rugby Club The new facility meets the club’s charter to provide the best possible rugby experience for its members and will be an important factor in the recruitment and retention of players across all sections of the club. That the facility has been christened “the Shed” speaks volumes about its genesis. It was never meant to be. It just happened! In 2012, the club moved from its squalid and inadequate clubhouse and grounds to its current first-class facilities, on Wilkinson Way (named in honour the clubs greatest product Jonny Wilkinson). It was anticipated there would be an increase in membership as a result, but no-one anticipated the scale of that increase. Before long, one of the eight new changing rooms was crammed with all manner of training and playing paraphernalia. For a few seasons, this did not matter. Even on busy Sundays with multiple junior games, there was rarely a time when Changing Rooms 7 & 8 were called for. However, the scrum machines languished outside all year round and although the Club Management Committee regularly discussed building a storage shed, it was never a priority given the other calls on the club’s cash. The pressure for those changing rooms reached new levels in the 2017/18 season when the club seized upon the growing interest in women’s rugby. Driven by Abigail Jackson and Olly Cruickshank, the women and girls section exploded into life. The original clubhouse design designated changing rooms 7 & 8 for female use. The Women’s XV, dubbed The Falcons, were arranging regular fixtures and, unsurprisingly, wanted their changing rooms! A storage shed was now a priority. Initial research into planning permission uncovered the requirement for the building to be substantial and architecturally in keeping with the clubhouse and neighbouring David Lloyd Club. Drawings were commissioned and quotations sought for a building that would meet planning approval. The best price from a third party came in at around a quarter of a million pounds! The shed was once more on the back burner. But the need for the changing rooms did not go away and so the Committee got to thinking, “What if we turned to the membership of the club for the skills and the labour to build the shed? What if we made it more than a place to store tackle-bags and scrum machines? How can we get the place to pay for itself?” A “Shed” team was convened under the leadership of John Wickens (chair of the Commercial Committee). The physical build was orchestrated by Jim O’Sullivan (Development Sec) who had represented the club

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during the original development of the site at Wilkinson Way. Jonny Adams (Vets Captain) built it aided and abetted by other skilled tradesmen from the club and working parties from senior and junior sides, male and female. The fitting out of the gym and its operational aspects was the remit of Steve Baird (Academy coach). Toby Comley (Club Captain) supplied the outside paving slabs from his eponymous reclaim business. People can watch TV as they push weights thanks to Rupert Mitchell (Vet) who supplied and rigged gear that was surplus to his AV business. Steve Ratcliffe (IT Sec) made sure of good WiFi connectivity. KBO Security supplied the fire and security measures including sophisticated automated access at cost in a contra deal to club sponsorship. Meg Parks (fully qualified fitness instructor, club SAC coach and Falcon player) will lead day-to-day operations at the gym. And at the back of the gym is the required storage capacity so changing Rooms 7 & 8 are back in business. This club effort built and equipped the Shed for substantially less than the cost quoted by a third party and will be an asset to the club for many years to come. A great story of what team effort can do, made ever more remarkable by the fact it has been achieved during the Covid19 Pandemic.

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RFU & Counties news

Safety-led law change for age grade rugby

home of Bristol & District Rugby Football Combination, complying to current covid restrictions, to celebrate their achievements and to receive their awards.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will introduce a law change to the tackle height in age grade rugby in England for the 2021/22 season.

During these extraordinary times experienced over the past year, many volunteers have risen to numerous challenges and overcome adversity. GRFU was delighted to receive so many nominations and the Awards Panel had its work cut out to whittle down the final shortlist to those who gathered at the event.

The existing rules for those playing full contact rugby at Under 9 to Under 14 levels has an imagined line between the armpits as the maximum height of a legal tackle. Under the law change, approved by the RFU Council, this rule now extends to Under 15 to Under 18 levels bringing the tackle height down from shoulder level to the armpit for those age groups. This means all players who are permitted to tackle in full contact age grade rugby (those participating at Under 7 and Under 8 level play non-contact rugby) will do so at the same height. The RFU takes player welfare very seriously and it is at the heart of the training delivered to coaches, referees and medics at all levels of the game. The rules in operation ensure maximum possible safety for children, allowing players the time to learn rugby basics before contact is gradually introduced. While the age grade and professional game cannot be realistically compared, the aim of the law change is to further reduce any community game high risk tackle events by taking two heads out of the same “air space”. There are a number of programmes, courses and resources to support schools, clubs and participants at all levels of the game including the Rugby Safe programme, Don’t be a HEADCASE concussion guidance and the Activate injury prevention programme. Rugby has a role to play in keeping people active, healthy and engaged. It also has other non-physical positive benefits for all ages, including increasing confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline and building character. There are also other rugby options including tag, touch and adapted versions of the contact game such as X-rugby for those players wanting to play variations from the full contact version of the game.

Gloucestershire rugby volunteers congratulated by HRH The Princess Royal HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of Gloucestershire Rugby Football Union (GRFU), congratulated rugby winners at this year’s Awards in Adversity event, created to recognise those who have gone over and above to support their rugby and wider community during the pandemic. Eleven volunteers from eight GRFU member clubs attended an intimate event at Lockleaze Sports Centre,

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Keith Gee, GRFU President said: “All the volunteers expressed complete amazement when they were told they had been selected as an award winner. Why? Simply because they just get on and do it, without expecting any praise or thanks. They have a passion for the game of rugby and are prepared to put themselves out for their club, school, or society if it helps their community”. Among the award winners was Kevin Mulvaney from St Mary’s Old Boys RFC who was delighted to be part of such a memorable event, saying: “It was a fabulous day and meeting HRH The Princess Royal was an honour. The award reflects the team at St Mary’s”. Luke Savory added “I am genuinely humbled, it hasn’t really sunk in. I didn’t do this for recognition; it was an activity to keep me from thinking about the fact that my Dad had died. This award is for every person at Chosen Hill FP RFC for holding me and my family up and for helping to raise thousands of pounds for such an amazing cause. There wouldn’t have been a #BicforBob without Bob, this award is for also my Dad” The full list of winners recognised on the night is: Luke Savory & Josh Forrester Rodway – Chosen Hill Former Pupils RFC drove a fundraising initiative to raise over £16k for Cheltenham & Gloucester NHS charity, recognising the excellent care given to his Bob, taken into hospital early April last year and sadly losing his life to Covid-19 David Reeves – Cirencester RFC ensured the club remained in line with all the rules and regulations which constantly evolved, putting endless hours into the club as his work contract was terminated due to the pandemic Danny Briggs [Fairford RFC] highlighted the importance of mental health and well-being inspiring club members to walk over 63,000km, raising monies for a former player’s memorial bench as well as mental health charities MIND and Shine Bright (Fairford) Declan Dunphy – NBRFC as Safeguarding Lead, coordinated the planning and implementation of the various strategies to ensure that the Club was Covid Secure in addition to leading on the clubs commercial activities, ensuring the club remains financially secure Jan Bowen, Nick & Lisa Merrick [Old Bristolians Sports Club] led an initiative with over 400 school meals prepared and cooked at the clubhouse and delivered across Bristol, North Somerset, and Somerset

Charlie Balfour [Old Elizabethans RFC] spent countless time creating creative ways to keep all players and non-players actively engaged with the club as well as linking in with local schools, their teachers, and pupils Kevin Mulvaney – St Mary’s Old Boys RFC navigated the club through the covid crisis successfully to emerge stronger, more resilient, and sustainable than before with the means to bring in new members from the local deprived communities and expand the use of club facilities to other activities to engage more closely with other charities and organisations. Tim Marshfield – Stroud Rugby based himself at the club whilst working from home, which proved invaluable in organising essential maintenance to the club. preparing for the return to rugby and ensuring a welcoming environment to all The GRFU has a sound foundation on which to build, with over 70 clubs and 120 playing schools in membership. None of these would be in existence if it were not for the dedicated volunteers throughout all echelons of the game. Everyone within the GRFU and its clubs are driven by a shared passion for the game. No one role is any more, or less, important than another. Whether it be marking out a pitch, refereeing a match, serving behind a bar, coaching a team, chairing a meeting, or fundraising there is always a way to get involved.

David Ewing becomes Distinguished Member of the RFU David Ewing, retiring Council Member was conferred with the status of a Distinguished Member of the RFU in recognition of his service to both the RFU and Rugby.

Cheshire Colts. Holding the office of Chair, Treasurer and Chair of Selectors he soon became involved with North Colts, U18 and U20s becoming Chair and National Cup Divisional Organiser. David’s passion is for player development and giving opportunities for young players to reach their potential in the game. This has always been first and foremost for David, which is evident in his support for Aspirational Representative rugby.”

Gary Baines appointed to crucial role promoting player safety Eastern Counties is delighted to announce the appointment of Gary Baines to the post of RugbySafe Manager - he will be taking the lead on promoting player safety and best practice in rugby in the East of England. Gary spent 32 years in the NHS working as a paramedic and a senior manager including time working on helicopter operations and rapid response units for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust. He is currently the RugbySafe lead for Saffron Walden RFC and provides medical cover for the club's 1st XV at home and away matches. Gary comments: "I am pleased to take on the role as the RugbySafe lead on behalf of the Eastern Counties RFU and I look forward to all forms of rugby returning to our pitches and schools in the very near future. The safety and welfare of all players is crucial to the success and enjoyment of the game that we all love to play and watch. Promotion of the RFU’s headcase training, concussion protocols and first aid training for volunteers and club officials is something that we should all seek to promote and encourage.

His citation read: “David has been on Council for 11 years as the member for Cheshire RFU, having been involved with them since 1973 when he was involved with and chaired the Colts Committee and to date in various other roles. On Council he has served on Player Development, three years as Vice Chair with responsibility for the Aspirational Pathway and four years as Chair and subsequently Community Game Board He has also been a member of Competition Development and six years on Nominations Committee.

I look forward to visiting as many clubs as I can and seeing the great work that already goes on within the Eastern Counties." With player safety, mental health and the avoidance and management of concussion all major issues in the game, Eastern Counties will be supporting Gary in ensuring that clubs have all the information they need to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved in the game. We will also be looking to grow a network of RugbySafe leads in our counties and clubs.

David has also sat on Offshore Travel funding working party, Slaughter & May Council Review, Anti-Doping Working Group and Recognition & Rewards Working Group. Being part of the County Championship Review Group, he had specific responsibility for addressing the U20 Championship and the concerns of some counties participating. He also sat on the County Championship Appeals Group as well being the RFU Representative on the ASSE Colleges Committee. David’s long association with Youth Rugby began with

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Facilities: Anselmians RUFC

Major funding deal secures club improvements

Anselmians RUFC long-term project has finally come to fruition thanks to a major funding deal. The facilities at the club will dramatically change the future for their members as well as for the local community. The club's ten-year project to improve its player and community facilities has been completed following a major funding deal. COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions delayed improvements to Eastham-based Anselmians RUFC's work on a high-end event space and community hub. West Kirby-based Bathgate Business Finance specialist secured the £100,000 funding needed to complete the project.

Hub, where Wirral Youth Services will be providing children and young people with activities, while the club will also be providing young people with more opportunities to get into the game. Once fully open, the hospitality facilities will generate new jobs for the area, employing 15 people on a parttime basis initially, with ambitions to grow its staff base in line with demand.

The club opened its clubhouse Eastham Pavilion to guests and the local community as soon as the easing of COVID-19 restrictions permitted tables of six to dine indoors.

The project started in 2011, in a bid to create new facilities that would support the local community in Eastham and the wider Wirral area, and drive revenue to support the club’s survival in the face of declining participant numbers.

The new facilities will be home to Wirral Community

The project was expected to complete in Spring 2020,

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but increased costs to ensure the quality of the build and disruption due to the pandemic meant that additional funding was required to complete the project to its high specification and in time for when restrictions were fully eased in June. Despite having a solid business case, the club was frustrated to find it was not able to secure funding from its own bank or usual lenders, who were focused on securing CBILS loans and nervous about investing in a hospitality-focused project. It turned to Bathgate Business Finance - a club sponsor since 2018 - following a recommendation by Richard Burnett, from club Solicitors Hillyer McKeown. Bathgate property finance expert, Ben Humphreys, quickly identified a funder that understood new developments and specialised in community led projects and brokered the deal, ensuring that the club was offered a flexible repayment structure and competitive interest rates. Jim McKenzie, executive director at Anselmians RUFC said: "In order to exceed the expectations of our members, we always knew that some short funding would be needed, so it was extremely frustrating to find that we couldn’t secure finance through our usual routes.

"We launched this project in 2011 with the build itself starting two years ago, so it’s been a long road. "There’s a lot of excitement around the launch as people have been watching the project progress with great interest and we are already fully booked up for events until next Spring. "We now can’t wait to start operating and welcome our guests. We opened the doors of Eastham Pavilion to members from May 17, with many more private, public and community events to follow over the summer." Ben Humphreys from Bathgate Business Finance said: "It’s been great to be able to help get this project over the line. "The new buildings look fantastic, they’re providing world-class facilities for the local community and the club is also bringing new jobs to the area. "We're happy to hear that there is already a raft of events booked for 2021 and beyond, including business networking events that we’re looking forward to supporting, and we wish the club all the best for its upcoming launch events."


"Bathgate stepped in and Ben was enormously supportive of the project from the start.

"We were pleasantly surprised by Bathgate’s portfolio of non-standard lenders; we found the whole team extremely easy to deal with and Ben was extremely effective in brokering the relationship between ourselves and the lender.

Richard Burnett from Hillyer McKeown Solicitors said: "We have been involved in this project from the start, acting for the club on the redevelopment scheme and the sale of land for residential development. "This funding feels like the final piece of the jigsaw, leaving a community legacy we are all very proud of."

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Facilities news

Peterborough RUFC announce grounds partnership with London Rock and Contour Golf Peterborough Rugby Club is delighted in partnership with London Rock, and Contour Golf, to announce the commencement of a major project to improve and modernise their outside facility at Fortress Fengate. The club which boasts over 1000 members is one of the oldest, and biggest amateur single sports clubs in the City and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024. Tagged “The Club For All” it caters for all members of the community in Peterborough, and is keen to attract a wide diversity of members to be part of the rugby family. The club is currently run entirely by volunteers. Children as young as four start with Little Scrummers on a Saturday morning, and the club fields teams of all age groups including a Veterans side known as the Juggers. Particularly strong are the clubs Age Grade Section who play on Sundays, and included in this are several girls teams, mirroring the trend as the country’s leading growth team sport for girls. Many of these girls progress to playing for the clubs senior ladies team. Fengate became the home of PRUFC in the mid seventies after they moved from there facility at what is now the East of England Showground. The current grounds are on the site of a former council waste site, and although kept in good condition thus need to improve the facility after 45 years of use, was at the forefront of the minds of the club management. The opportunity to work with London Rock and Contour Golf was too big an opportunity to turn down. Vice Chairman Archie Bennett added “ At a time where there have been a lot of bad news stories and many difficulties experienced by amateur sports clubs, we are delighted to be able to report a really good news story. This development will make a huge difference to us. "The pitches are deteriorating rapidly and now will be levelled, re-drained, seeded with pitches being on their own separate levels. There will also be floodlight ducting installed to allow further pitches to be used at night. The grounds will also be re-landscaped and new perimeter fencing installed. "The project is environmentally friendly and a win win situation for all parties involved. This is the biggest project the club has embarked on in many years and will elevate the facility to a new level. It is believed to be the largest amateur sports ground improvement being carried out at the moment within the City. Our aim is to encourage the community to join us at Fengate, and our main goal is to provide them with the most enjoyable experience that we can. "By improving the facility we go a long way to doing

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that, and believe that this improvement will be the envy of all the visiting teams who arrive at the club. We have long term plans to build a new clubhouse and the drive to do this is enhanced by this latest venture. The club would like to thank London Rock and Contour Golf for giving us the opportunity to work with us, and we look forward to delivering this project to our members and the larger community within the City.”

Chester RUFC provide update on development plan Phase 1 of Chester RUFC's development plan is almost complete. It has centred around a new drainage system for the club house and the areas that immediately surround it. This involved the installation of a new attenuation tank requiring an excavation of 109m3, which was then filled with 340 soakaway crates measuring 500mm x 500mm x 1075mm. The work was carried out by Ceres Construction Group who competed for the work with GJ Teeson of Ruthin. In theory this should have been a relatively straightforward job, however it soon became apparent that the existing drainage system was, to say the least, in some disarray – little wonder they'd been having so many problems! Special mention therefore must go to Mike, Ben and their team, who performed minor miracles in appalling weather to rectify the issues and give the club the system they desperately needed. Once the drainage work had been completed they then made good the ground and laid tarmac throughout. They have also levelled the potholes in the car park, and although this will not be a long term solution it is the most cost effective and pragmatic way of addressing the issue. Ceres have left the club with an extremely efficient drainage system and have improved the aesthetic of the club in doing so. They have done a fabulous job for the club and they look forward to their potential involvement in other future projects. Long overdue work on the squash club has now also been completed. It entailed cavity wall insulation, new LED lights, new heaters and most importantly, a new roof! The funding for this project came from squash members, the club's central account and a sizeable grant from Sport England. The finishing touch will be a new sign which will soon adorn the front of the building. Work has also already started on the demolishing of the old clubhouse, although we haven't yet got a definitive date for when the "heavy lifting" will begin.

Ampthill RUFC announce grant award for facilities Chairman Alex Radley has announced that the club will undertake several significant projects to improve the club's Dillingham Park ground starting this summer following the award of a grant from Central Bedfordshire Council. The club had applied for funding from Central Bedfordshire Council under Section 106 Funding for assistance with projects to include "new and additional floodlights on pitches one and two", "the conversion of the tractor shed to Ladies and Girls specific changing facilities" and "the installation of a a lift to the first floor clubhouse bar". All of these projects will be undertaken to improve the facilities for the use of the members - extra floodlights on pitches one and two will allow more teams to train at the same time during the week, including the Ladies and Girls who currently have to train at separate times due to lack of changing facilities. The lift installation will address access issues to the bar area for members who cannot use the stairs, and enhance the facilities for the use by other community groups in Ampthill. The capital investment to the club for these projects is in excess of £175,000 which includes a grant from Central Bedfordshire Council of £95,000. The remainder will need to be funded by the club and they will be speaking with all Team Mangers regarding some additional fundraising for these projects to be completed. The club would also like to confirm that due to the difficulties cause to the club by the global pandemic

over the past eighteen months, the club will not be relocating and will remain at Dillingham Park. Club Chairman, Alex Radley, comments: "Ampthill is a community rugby club and I'm delighted that Central Bedfordshire Council have supported us through the award of the grant to further improve our facilities for the use of our members and local community. I would like to extend my personal thanks on behalf of the club to Matt Hague for his work in securing the grant for us."

Falkirk Rugby Club look to take responsibility for operating their facilities As part of the club development plans Falkirk Rugby Club have made an application to the councils capital grant programme. The Council owned Sunnyside changing pavilion is dilapidated and inappropriately configured for female participants/officials. As a result, it is under-utilised. Its main user, Falkirk RFC, wishes to take on responsibility for operating the building on a not-forprofit basis. Falkirk plan to invest to transform it into an attractive, modern hub for local clubs and organisations, providing them with access to a new physio suite, flexible teaching area, expanded gym and fit-for-purpose changing / showering facilities. However, they will go further, using the hub to deliver a variety of sport, health and wellbeing focused programmes, addressing high-priority local needs with partner organisations.

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Governance: London Scottish Rugby Club

Career support given to players at London Scottish London Scottish told Rugby Blindside about the club's new player career support programme. This initiative shows a real understanding of the problems faced in the modern game for players plying their trade in the second tier of English rugby. The last 18 months has thrown new challenges and problems at rugby. In the RFU Greene King Championship London Scottish felt their hands were tied as the financial implications of playing without game day revenue meant they had no other choice but not to compete in 2020/21 reduced season. The club confirmed that they would not be taking 10-year government loans through the Sports Winter Survival Package in order to play 10 loss-making matches in the reduced format Championship.

attend, would run the risk of sudden postponement owing to Covid.

They argued that the matches, which the club’s members and supporters were unlikely to be able to

Sadly, however, the arrival of the pandemic resulted in further cuts to central funding and closed down all

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The Board had been working to a three-year plan to drive the club to a sustainable break-even future after years of annual deficits. These efforts were on track to be achieved this season even after the unilateral RFU funding cuts to the Championship announced in February 2020 which resulted in the club transitioning from a full-time model to part-time.

Image: PRiME Media Images

rugby, players’ primary source of income has been fundamentally affected. The RFU's funding to Championship clubs has been spiralling downwards for a couple of years now and by the start of 2022/23 season the funding will be at £288,000 per club. Not something that is sustainable for clubs at that level. The RFU is currently facing a crisis with the Championship as it has admitted itself that it doesn't know the leagues role in the rugby pyramid anymore. Previously a hub for English Academy Players (EAPs) and young English Qualified Players (EQPs) to develop and hone their skills, now this is no longer the case. Back when the latest funding cuts were announced in February 2020 RFU CEO, Bill Sweeney, said: "The Championship is, and will continue to be, a useful way for players to get additional developmental experience, but we do not believe it is the primary place where Premiership and England players are discovered and developed.” Considering these factors and the change in the RFU's attitude to Championship clubs, London Scottish took it upon themselves to help look after and protect the welfare of their players. This is why they launched the Player Career Support Programme, whereby the club can help players develop their careers off the field as well as on it. In the past former 1st XV player John MacDonald Brown sourced a job for former player Bobbie Beattie, while business partner Future Proof Pro helped current player Jake Ellwood find a new role in IT following a mentoring process, including interview training and CV enhancement. More recently Frank McKay has recruited a new player to train and work full time as a fibre optics engineer.

normal commercial activity which meant almost no income for 12 months. London Scottish Chairman, Malcolm Offord, said: “Unfortunately, we were offered loans, not grants, to help us survive Covid. Much as we all desperately wanted to see London Scottish competing on the pitch, we did not believe the solution to short-term losses was taking on long term loans. "Director of Rugby, Matt Williams, had put together a great squad for last season and we were all bitterly disappointed, especially for the players, that we didn’t get the chance to see them play. But we had to put the long-term sustainable future of the club first for the benefit of our members, staff, shareholders, sponsors and supporters.” Due to the challenges of the pandemic and London Scottish not participating in the reduced Championship season the players were put on furlough under their existing contracts and the club looked at options to assist their next moves. In light of the RFU cuts, the on-going financial effects of the pandemic and the necessary transition to part-time

This excellent initiative will not only help support their current crop of players, but also help attract new players to the club. With the knowledge that this sort of initiative is in place, players joining London Scottish can feel more comfortable that their future best interests from a financial consideration are being addressed. London Scottish have also shown great awareness that the career of rugby player is short-lived. Planning and preparing for life after rugby for a player in the second tier of English rugby is especially important as it’s unlikely that they will have amassed the fortunes that some Premiership players benefit from. So, a Career Support Programme like this is exactly what players need. Hats off to London Scottish. Whilst we can appreciate the fantastic initiative by London Scottish, it does also beg the question that why is it still necessary for the club to have to do this? The big picture is that the club’s recent forced change from full time to part time status is indicative of the clear lack of enough progress from the birth of professionalism in rugby in 1995. It’s obvious that more financial support for clubs (and players) at this level is needed from the governing bodies.

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Mental Health & Psychology for the Rugby League Player in 2021

With over 30 years' experience of helping develop people and organisations, Ross McWilliam discusses the concept of resilience and its impact on performance and mental health for a rugby player. How do you balance the psychology of a player to perform at his best against the needs to protect, or even develop his mental health? Are these two components mutually exclusive in as much as by developing one component, the other suffers? Or is it possible to create a Stephen Covey type Win-Win scenario where improved mental health has a positive impact on player performance and vice versa? An interesting place to start this debate might be to look at the components needed to become a successful rugby league player. It could be said that qualities such as skill, physical fitness, attitude, adaptability, motivation, reliability, being able to absorb pain, having fortitude and patience to overcome injury, and being resilient and even being brave, are all key components that make up the complete rugby league player. Knowing how to gain,

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nurture and develop these qualities, and when to use them, are also key factors to consider. Equally, being aware when we are maybe not making progress, or are actually reducing performance, is another critical factor to be considered. Let’s take the key concept of resilience and look at its impact on performance and mental health. For many people resilience is synonymous with keep pushing, no pain no gain, and suck it up type statements. Others add another layer on by stating resilience is also about being adaptable to change, and being able to bounce back. On the surface this is all well and good – it’s a must have component. However, if developing resilience comes at the expense of our mental health, then a compromised mental state is surely going to have a negative impact on performance.

So, resilience can be good, but an over emphasis in terms of frequency, duration and intensity could produce fracture points that may be difficult to heal.

Possessing the right knowledge concerning what perpetuates good mental health and helps prevent poor mental health is also key.

This over emphasis can be seen in terms of more and sustained injuries, poorer on field performance of trying too hard, being too resilient, and a real compromise in our mental health as we try and live up to expectation of being resilient, on and off the pitch.

There are 5 pillars of mental well-being that need to be constantly referred to if sustained mental health is to be achieved:

The male stereotype of being strong when others are ‘weak’, to be the bread winner, to be the performer, to take care of things, can all quickly become the problem rather than the objective. Mental health can and will be negatively impacted. However, if you want a more complete analysis of resilience, that takes into account sustainability of its development, especially in the longer term, you should look no further than the world renowned academic expert Rick Hansen who describes resilience as having any components not least compassion, gratitude, confidence, grit, learning, mindfulness, motivation and even intimacy. This more wholesome description identifies a number of self-care qualities we must develop if resilience is to be useful to us, as opposed to something that could actually compromise our performance and mental health. Getting back to our Win-Win scenario, what else should we be aware of, and develop, or eliminate if we are to be mentally healthy and a top performer? In the first instance it is being able to adopt a view point that good mental health will not only improve performance, but it could almost certainly prolong a career. Being aware of your day to day feelings and emotions and how these impact on your behaviours is a simple, yet powerful tool. Daily checking in with yourself by asking questions such as: Q How do I feel right now? Q What is bugging me? Q What is going right? Q Am I taking on too much today and in the future? Q Do I need support? Q Who can I be vulnerable with? This is all part of a personal plan of self-care and daily checking in is a key part of this. Eliminating negative factors or even unfriending certain people who do not have your emotional interests at heart, maybe the way to retain your mental health. Allied to this, is the accessibility to professional support when we approach or hit crisis. This immediate support to prevent mental ill health, or hasten recovery, is pivotal to top players as consistent performance is the name of the game.

1 Good sleep hygiene 2 Diet 3 Exercise 4 Being connected 5 Self-esteem and purpose In the case of the professional player, the two key elements are being connected and self-esteem/purpose. Having a supportive network around us of friends, nonplaying professionals, non-judgmental people is critical. Being able to identify your self-esteem, know how to develop and sustain it whilst retaining your purpose feeds into positive mental health, and as such, can produce better playing performances. A final word on stress. It often gets a bad reputation. When Hans Selye coined the phrase ‘stress’ in the 1950’s, he meant it to be considered as a good thing, ie we actually need stress to get out of bed in the morning, to meet people, to learn, to earn, and also to perform. However, when the frequency, intensity and duration of the stress, whether it’s real or perceived, becomes too much to handle, and we may also not be aware of this, then mental health compromise lies in wait.

Ross McWilliam is a freelance speaker, trainer and author with more than 30 years’ experience of developing people and organisations. He works with organisations such as EFL, NCS, IBM, Santander, NHS, and is a MHFA England Trainer in Youth & Adult Mental Health and has worked in over 1500 schools, colleges and businesses. He is also an author of various mindset books aimed at children and young professionals and works with large groups, or one to one coaching to improve performance. Email: Business Website: Book Website: Tel: 07771916788

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Opinion: Matt Hardy

Rip out the pages: It’s time to re-write rugby’s international chapter In a post-pandemic world, international rugby will look as exclusive and ring-fenced as it ever has done. We have a golden chance to globalise the oval ball game and that time is now. Before those eyes roll to the back of your head, this is not an ode to a global season, it’s an overture dedicated to change. Rugby’s main issue at the international stage is a failure to commercialise in a truly global sense. Rugby does not have a figure as synonymous with the sport as Serena Williams is to Tennis, Tom Brady is to NFL and Usain Bolt was to Athletics.

Talks of a Six Nations style competition in the Americas are promising following a successful and competitive Súper Liga Americana de Rugby. Again, the gulf will be clear and obvious to see. Many expect Argentina to walk away with the title for the foreseeable future but inspiring a generation will pay off… eventually. Let’s truly involve the Pacific islanders and Japan in a version of the Rugby Championship, with the Asia Cup remaining for developing rugby nations in the region.

World Rugby must work with the various continental governing bodies to expand the game to as many countries, villages, townships, and outposts as possible. Only then will rugby truly be global.

We could soon be seeing a Pacific Powerhouse in Super Rugby and a heavily Pacifica influenced side in Hawaii competing in the MLR Championship, pathways to international competitions that mean as much as the Six Nations means in Europe can only captivate and globalise the game.

To achieve this, provide the hope to every child and aspiring rugby player that they could one day be at a World Cup, competing for their country among the very best in the world. Open up the pathways, don’t created gated communities.

Rugby is at a crossroads and the traffic lights are broken. The sport can give way to small minded companies looking to exploit the already private member club or it can put up that stop sign and rethink where it’s going.

Georgia, the Lelos, are on a run of 20 Rugby Europe wins and have bagged their fourth consecutive title, they’re hanging on to the ceiling begging for a staircase to the Six Nations. Many are right to point to the likely gulf in class, skill and fitness but when aspiring players know they’ll never play for their country in the highest-level continental competitions, why should they bother playing at all?

We want true commercialisation in rugby, the finances of clubs and unions during the pandemic have proved that to be the case, so it’s time to take a leap of faith, rip out the international rugby book and write a sequel that’s better, stronger, fairer and, most importantly, more hopeful for all.

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H A RD Y] [M A TT Summer 2021 - Rugby Blindside | 31

Commercial news

Darlington Mowden Park extend deal with Lucid Technology Darlington Mowden Park RFC have announced that Lucid Technology Solutions have agreed to extend their sponsorship of the club for a further 5 seasons. The local IT experts based in Norton have been supporters of the club since their move to the Arena in 2012, and will continue to provide technology support until at least May 2026. Asked about extending their sponsorship of the club, Lucid's Technology Director Paul Alsop commented: “I am delighted to be able to continue our partnership with the club for the next 5 years. The values of the club and its members are directly in line with our own which makes it an easy decision to continue and extend our support. We are excited about being able to help the club grow out of the difficulties everyone has experienced over the last 18 months and look forward to further improving services within the stadium over the coming years. We cant wait to be back at the stadium for live rugby and will be introducing as many people as possible to great rugby and a great game day experience”. Formerly known as Yarm Computers, Lucid rebranded in 2018 and moved to their new premises in Norton in 2019 as the business continues to grow year on year. Having successfully completed 30 years in business, their team has grown from 2 to over 20. The growth and everchanging dynamics of technology has allowed them to expand as a company and focus on the provision of a wider range of support. The renewed partnership will also see Lucid’s logo appear on the DMP playing kit for the first time; featuring on the 1st XV playing shorts for the next 5 league campaigns. Speaking on the renewed sponsorship, DMP Chairman Mick Birch added: “Paul and the team at Lucid have been huge supporters of the club for the last 8 or 9 years and I’m thrilled that they’ve pledged their support for a further 5 seasons. We’re hugely grateful for their ongoing support, particularly given the difficult year we’ve all had, and I thoroughly look forward to welcoming them back to the Arena for a game in the near future!”

East Grinstead announce new principle partner Spartan and Tough Mudder, the global leaders in obstacle course events, have become principal partners and the club’s new official EG Men 1st XV and EG Women's players kit sponsor. Matt Brooke, Spartan UK & Ireland Managing Director said: ‘During what is set to be an exciting time for East Grinstead Rugby Club on and off the pitch, we are delighted to be supporting it’s male and female teams deliver against their ambitions on the pitch. At Spartan and Tough Mudder, we believe that by overcoming

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obstacles together and challenging yourself then anything is possible. Given this and the fact our events share so many similarities with community rugby – teamwork, camaraderie, inclusivity, resiliency, fun and mud to name but a few, it was a natural fit for both organisations to partner. What’s more, with Spartan South East and Tough Mudder London South just a stone’s throw from East Grinstead in Pippingford Park and Holmbush Estate respectively, we can’t wait to see more of the Sussex Rugby Community rise to the challenge and join us on our start lines in the near future.’ Andy Poole, East Grinstead RFC President commented: ‘We are thrilled to be entering this new chapter with Spartan & Tough Mudder, sharing the same ambitions and values and already working closely with the players, coaches and managers to build resilience, discipline and intensity within our senior teams. It is hugely rewarding to work together with two companies which also have a mind for community involvement, continuing our commitment to make rugby inclusive to all.’ ‘To launch the new partnership, we have been working closely with our official kit supplier, O’Neills who have created this very special senior playing shirt which is identical for both men and women players. The club are also excited to introduce the new EGRFC cycling shirt, training vest and running t-shirt which will be available to members very soon.’ Spartan and Tough Mudder have charitably donated part of their sponsorship rights to recognising the incredible work of the NHS and its frontline health workers as they continue to lead the battle against Coronavirus. As a result, thanks to permissions granted from the Department of Health and Social Care, East Grinstead’s men and women senior teams will this year show their support and appreciation by carrying the words ‘Thank You NHS’ on the sleeves of their shirts. The rugby season may look a little different right now but it is certainly proving to be a motivating time for members of East Grinstead RFC. The club would like to thank all their sponsors for the continued valued support during this unprecedented season.

Wasps FC announce technical and retail partnership with hummel Wasps FC have announced a new technical and retail partnership with iconic sportswear brand hummel following a competitive tender process. The long term agreement, which comes into effect for the start of the 2021/22 season, will see hummel manufacture and supply Wasps FC with bespoke playing, training and travel wear for the Men’s, Womens, Legends and mini and youth sections of the club as well as coaching and operations staff at Twyford Avenue. The iconic Danish brand, founded in 1923, have a rich heritage and are one of the most recognised sport brands in the world. The deal also provides the

opportunity for the Wasps family to align with our professional cousins in Coventry also announcing a long term partnership with hummel. This will be the first partnership of its kind for hummel in rugby union and covering Wasps Netball. hummel is represented in the UK and Ireland by its exclusive Brand Partner Elite Group who, as part of the agreement, will develop and deliver a comprehensive retail offering, as well as operate the Club’s online retail stores. Wasps FC Executive Committee, Waheed Aslam, said: “The Wasps brand is one of the most iconic in Rugby Union and Sport generally, working with hummel and the professional club will allow our members to share the wider benefits of the Wasps brand and provide an even more exciting club to be part of at the grassroots level” “Everyone at the Club is really excited by the discussions that have taken place and we look forward to working with hummel to deliver a fantastic range of kits and merchandise and further aligning the Wasps group” The club would also like to place on record our sincere thanks to Samurai for all their support over the last three seasons.

Ipswich RFC announce physio and medical sponsor Harris Strategic Land confirmed as sponsor of Ipswich RFC physio and medical supplies for the coming season. The club puts a high priority on injury prevention and effective rehabilitation at IRFC, and it is great to have this supported going forward. Harris Strategic Land (HSL) are proud to sponsor Ipswich Rugby Club, Tony Harris, Director of the company, grew up in Ipswich and has many school friends and business contacts affiliated to the club. “As a company we work on numerous projects in and around Suffolk and are always looking for future land deals in the area. Ipswich Rugby Club have always been a great club and the work that is going in to their fundraising campaign is phenomenal, we wish them every success and look forward to a bright future with them” HSL work in partnership with landowners to get residential planning permission and then promote the land within the sector to sell on the open market, advising and supporting the landowner throughout the process ensuring their land realises the best commercial outcome for residential property development.

Eton Manor team up with Under Armour Eton Manor RFC are delighted to announce that they have secured a new 3 year partnership with USA sports equipment & clothing giants, Under Armour, to supply

their whole clubs playing & training attire, the deal is the first of its kind for grassroots rugby. As part of the 3 year deal, Under Armour have developed the club's own dedicated online shop which will link straight into their main Eton Manor RFC website. The online shop should be available from July onwards where anyone will be able to peruse and purchase all our Eton Manor RFC branded kit & training wear. The club will also be offering some other specialised UA branded attire and related products which they will be expanding on as they develop the club's online shops product lines. To offer a far more efficient service for the club members and to keep the cost of the new kit to a bare minimum, they will not be offering any new UA kit for sale via the clubhouse shop for the time being. The club have worked hard with UA to make sure all their playing & training attire is priced at comparable prices to other suppliers within the Rugby retail market. But most of all, the club feels the biggest difference will be the quality and durability of the clothing from Under Armour, which of course is a world renown High Street brand. As part of their changeover to Under Armour, Eton Manor would like to know if there are any Youth & Minis age groups that have any potential to gain a full or partial kit sponsorship for 2021 onwards? If you have this ability or potential, please can you contact Youth Chairman Gary Davies so we can move this forward as expeditiously as possible. The club realises there will be a lengthy changeover period, so please do not to worry about what design club kit your year group or children may be wearing, it is all still our Blue & Blue, it is all still Eton Manor RFC, no matter what the design brand, we all wear our Club shirts & badge with pride.

Horsham Rugby Club announce Aspect8 as major club sponsor Horsham Rugby Club is delighted to announce that Aspect8 have become a major new club sponsor Aspect8 will be sponsoring the next set of match shirts for the Men's 1st and 2nd XV's, the Ladies 1st XV, and every Mini Rugby age group plus a pitch side board and a website link. Aspect8, is a multi-award-winning Chartered financial planning firm, the gold standard in financial advice. They have been helping people make the most of their money since 1993. Individuals, families and business owners have trusted Aspect8 to help them achieve long-term financial security for nearly 30 years. They take pride in providing a friendly, responsive and straightforward personal service with a human touch.

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Opinion: Dave Swanton

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Getting crowds back in Hopefully, I say with everything crossed, the 20212022 season will be one we will all enjoy, either playing, coaching or watching. We have all had enough of re-runs on television and watched the 2003 World Cup DVD over and over.

steward wearing a face mask or being served a hot dog and coke buy someone dressed as a space explorer isn’t a good idea. People will be incredibly inquisitive about cleanliness at grounds whether it is Twickenham or the local grass roots club.

There is nothing like the real thing but I think one of the biggest factors will be use of common sense. Local Councils are a little inconsistent and questions are asked why the Grand Prix can allow 140,000 spectators and the epic Premiership Final between Harlequins and Exeter was only allocated a 10,000 limit!

I have had a few discussions with club and league administrators on the phone and Zoom whilst recovering from my heart surgery and I know what I would do and have actually drawn up a plan of action to help clubs not only bring back their existing fans but also attract new ones. Make no mistake, everything you can think of where people are entertained will be battling for that pound in your pocket and gimmicks like kids for a quid or kids go free will not be enough.

We also have the potential problem of whether Wales, Scotland and Ireland follow the English lead and agree that we have to live with Covid now as part of our lives. Attitudes have changed since we were locked down in what seems an age ago, do people want to buy season tickets, do they wear a mask, and do they sit or stand next to someone who may not have been vaccinated or maybe just a carrier? I have a friend who had developed a wristband that could be issued to supporters as a ‘stadium passport’ for the day of the game whereby a steward could check the ‘QR’ code before entry. He believed it would be a good idea but there are some who think it’s an invasion of privacy and any form of ID/Passport should not be allowed. Clubs have launched season tickets for next season and from what I hear and read the dash to purchase has not been what was expected by rugby starved fans. In fairness clubs have been offering, on the whole, generous discounts to those renewing their season tickets but is it enough? Clubs need to demonstrate that it’s safe to attend a live game and maybe re-educate their fan base. Opening the gates and then being greeted by a

Some staff have been furloughed that long it will be part of their CV and they need to be back at work, getting mentally fit and ready for the challenges ahead. Once furlough ends and the season starts for all winter sports it’s going to be a survival of the fittest. Fail to provide a safe environment is going to push some clubs over the edge of a cliff, believe me. Mental health is also going to need to be managed too, both on and off the field and stress levels will hit bursting point. Sadly during the last 18 months people’s attitudes have changed and everyone is that bit more irritable, selfish and have lost communication skills. Personally I am looking forward to the challenge, 2020 and 2021 have not been good years for me with a serious heart issue and a divorce, but I am still here smiling and have absorbed so much information and knowledge about the inner workings of sport, I can’t wait to share them. Want to know more? Get in touch at or visit

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From the professional game

RFL enters five-year partnership with OXEN

Scottish Rugby extends partnership deal with BT

The Rugby Football League today announces another significant step on the road to this year’s Rugby League World Cup with a new five-year partnership with UKbased sportswear manufacturer OXEN to produce all technical kit for the England Men, Women, Wheelchair and Physical Disability teams.

Scottish Rugby Principal Partner BT has agreed to extend its support for the sport in Scotland in an updated deal which will see it reach ten years with the national governing body.

The new England designs will be unveiled ahead of the Mid-Season Internationals in June, when the England Men, Women and Wheelchair teams will take the field in them for the first time. OXEN are part of the Elite Pro Sports Group and have been working in the sports industry for over 30 years, with especially detailed knowledge of Rugby League, and a growing presence in the Betfred Super League.

BT will retain the naming rights to Scotland’s largest stadium, BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh. The new three-year arrangement will see BT also secure the front of shirt sponsor placement for the Scotland 7s team for the upcoming 2021/22 season. BT will also see its logo remain on the Scotland national team jersey albeit in a different position on the nape of the neck, which will first be seen on a newly designed jersey for the 2021/22 season, to be unveiled this summer.

World Rugby appoint Alan Gilpin as new CEO World Rugby has announced the appointment of Alan Gilpin as the international federation’s new Chief Executive Officer. Gilpin, 47, has performed the role of Interim Chief Executive following Brett Gosper’s departure in January, and is highly regarded within the rugby and wider sport’s business community. Gilpin has a broad and intimate understanding of World Rugby’s business operations having performed the dual role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Managing Director of Rugby World Cup since 2016, after joining the international federation to run the portfolio of Rugby World Cup properties in 2014. His leadership expertise, ability to assemble strong delivery teams and focus on innovation, along with the fan and player experience have played a strong role in the hosting of the most successful men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups to date. He has also transformed the future hosting model to broaden interest and impact.

British & Irish Lions partner with Dove Men+Care

World Rugby publishes 2021-25 Strategic Plan

Unilever’s leading male skincare brand Dove Men+Care has announced it will become product of choice to The British & Irish Lions for the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa.

World Rugby has launched ‘A Global Sport for All – True to its Values’, a new strategic plan for the advancement and growth of the sport through to 2025.

The partnership extends Dove Men+Care’s commitment to rugby complementing the long-term relationships with the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian rugby unions; and the Six Nations. Dove Men+Care will work with brand ambassadors and the Lions to showcase what it means to be selected, discover how players balance excellence on the pitch with parenthood at home, and highlight caring moments throughout the Lions Tour.

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While recognising the challenges facing society and sport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan sets out World Rugby’s long-term mission to support and enhance the game. It builds on strong foundations, with 9.6 million people playing the sport globally and the worldwide fan base increasing by two-thirds in rugby’s established markets and doubling in emerging markets over the past decade to more than 405 million.

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