Winter 2020 Issue - Rugby Blindside magazine

Page 1

WINTER 2020 / ISSUE 13

Contents Features


Interview with Harry Cornforth, CEO at Tynedale RFC .................................................................................02

Community news ..................................................................................10

Featured club: Kings Cross Steelers 'Rugby is for all' .................................................................................06 Interview with Andrea Harris, Joint Chair at Guernsey Raiders ..................................................................................12

Commercial news ..................................................................................18 Club news .................................................................................22 From the professional game .................................................................................24

Featured club: Amersham & Chiltern 'Creativity in the time of COVID' .................................................................................16

Opinion A new format for British & Irish club rugby .................................................................................20

See page 02

See page 16

See page 06

See page 12



Interview: Tynedale RFC


Interview with Harry Cornforth, Chief Executive at Tynedale RFC Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Harry Cornforth, CEO at Tynedale RFC to get know him and talk about the commercial impact of COVID-19 at the club and what measures they have taken to combat it. A little about you‌ Can you tell us a bit about your background? As a young man I attended RGS Newcastle where I played rugby under John Elders, the former England Coach. Whilst being a reasonable Centre I found that I was probably more proficient as a goalkeeper in soccer and was invited for trails with Nottingham Forest and Newcastle United. In my early twenties I became disillusioned with soccer and was persuaded by my good friend Richard Breakey, Gosforth and Scotland Fly Half, to play rugby again. This I did with Consett and Gosforth before my business career took off with the BTR Group and Barratt Developments. I became Southern Regional Finance Director of Barratt and moved to Ampthill in Bedfordshire where I was lured into a wonderful community rugby club which became the focus of my leisure time and family life. I coached my son Adam from the age of 6 and went on to become Treasurer, Secretary and eventually Chairman of Ampthill Rugby Club. I also became Chairman of Bedfordshire RFU and served on the General Committee of the East Midlands RFU. When Ampthill found themselves without a Director of Rugby I took over the job and guided the club through several seasons where we won the East Midlands Cup twice and established ourselves in the League System. Several seasons after I stepped down the club was struggling so I returned to the Director of Rugby role and we Image: Mike Pratt gained promotion the following season. I then


Interview: Tynedale RFC

looked around for a successor and appointed Mark Lavery who was a successful coach at Colts level. Together we masterminded the plan for Ampthill’s rise. I cannot lay claim to all of the success at Ampthill but Mark and I set out how we wanted the club to grow and he has been a tyro in making sure it was achieved, culminating in an unbelievable promotion to the championship. In 2012 I returned to Northumberland and after a couple of years watching Tynedale from the terraces I volunteered to help out on the gate, Needless to say things seemed to move on quickly after that! What do you enjoy most about your role as Chief Executive at Tynedale RFC? Being part of a like-minded team who are striving to bring the wonderful facilities at Tynedale up to their true potential. John Inverdale once described Tynedale’s ground as being one of the most picturesque in the country. I didn’t envisage that my first year as Chairman would be so devoid of rugby but I have enjoyed the challenge of leading a team of talented and enthusiastic ladies and gentlemen.


What is the current state of affairs at Tynedale RFC? Like all clubs we have seen at very marked reduction in our income streams. We are not located in the centre of a town and thus depend upon our membership,events, sponsorship and home match attendances for income. However careful housekeeping from a very lively committee and the loyal support of our sponsors and members has meant that we remain in a solvent position although wary of the possible impact when we return to rugby and in particular the costs which will arise from maintaining a First XV in National Two North. Being a northern outpost means that our travel costs are considerable and are likely to become even greater as we try to find ways to keep the players safe in these COVID days. We are also heavily engaged in trying to provide resilience to our clubhouse which has endured two major floods in recent years. Due to COVID-19 Tynedale RFC had to close the clubhouse and grounds. What impact did this have on the club and players? There is immense frustration amongst the players and the officials at the club. There is also concern that senior players may not return to the game

having had their routines and priorities changed. We have managed to keep training going when lockdowns have permitted but the lack of real contact rugby has clearly had an effect. Ben Woods and his team have been ingenious in the methods they have used to keep the players interested and fulfilled. The Junior Section of the club has been very resilient and numbers of players have generally been maintained but prolonged absence which we are experiencing now may prove damaging, particularly in the youth age groups.

What initiatives has Tynedale RFC undertaken this year to ensure survival? Early in the pandemic the Committee launched an appeal among the members which produced an outstanding response of around £23,000. We have also greatly benefitted from a stream of grants from local authority, Sport England and the RFU. As mentioned previously, we have also managed to keep some events going but with greatly reduced income.

I have to say that when we have been able to train it has been very heartening to see the enthusiasm from the girls and boys teams.

How important is the relationship with Tynedale’s commercial partners, especially in times like these?

The only upside of the lockdown period is that we had a tremendous response from volunteers in carrying out maintenance to the grounds with the mainstand being re-painted, the perimeter fence being totalled renewed, a new electronic scoreboard being installed and trees being given arborial treatment.

Absolutely essential. Our main sponsors Harlow Printing, Meldrum Construction, GSC Grays, Borderstone Quarries and The Building Maintenance Company have continued to support us albeit at reduced levels in some cases.

Like many other clubs, much of Tynedale’s income and community engagement will come from events at the club. How has this year been different? Our main event of the year is a 3 day Beer Festival which provides the club with around £30,000 of income. This year it was cancelled due to COVID but with some ingenuity the Festival Committee held a Virtual Event and raised around £2,000 which was donated to charity. If the Beer Festival has to be cancelled again this summer it would have a severe effect on club finances. We have been able to keep some of the boot fairs and caravan rallies going but income is about 30% of usual contributions.

We have also seen a considerable number of our perimeter advertising board sponsors continuing to contribute despite their business suffering in these difficult times. We are extremely grateful to them all. And finally, what does the future look like at Tynedale RFC? We are cautiously optomistic. We have a broadbased membership and a lively Junior Section which continues to support us. We also have some low contact rugby groups with two Touch Rugby Groups regularly playing at the club. Like most clubs we are wary as to how long we will be without competitive contact rugby but feel sure that when we return to normal times our club will once again be a hub for the community.



Featured club: Kings Cross Steelers


Rugby is for all Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Kings Cross Steelers RFC. They told us about the inspiring story of their club and the fantastic work they do with the LGBTQ+ community. When you think of the word community the immediate associations may be things such as one’s neighbourhood, school, or workplace. For others, the community that they are involved in is their sports club. The Kings Cross Steelers RFC is a perfect example of what a community represents and how a rugby club can be an example of hope in the darkest of days. In 1995 a group of 6 men in a pub just a stone’s throw away from Kings Cross station, decided to form the Kings Cross Steelers in an environment that was still hostile towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. Section 28 was still in effect and the representation of professional LGBTQ+ athletes in sport was limited to a handful of people within the UK and global sports arena.


Featured club: Kings Cross Steelers The founding of the Kings Cross Steelers was to provide a safe space for Gay & Bisexual men to play a sport they loved and prove, through their endeavours on the pitch, that they were equal to any mainstream team. Through many years of playing against squads in the RFU merit tables and leagues, the Kings Cross Steelers have proven to many that rugby is for all and there is very much a space for the International Gay Rugby community. In 2019 the Kings Cross Steelers were recognised for continuing to break new ground both on and off the pitch in the 2018/19 season and were rewarded by being named the Male Team of the Year at the Guinness National Rugby Awards. The Steelers overcame competition from fellow finalists Carlisle, Honiton, Market Harborough, Reeds Weybridge and Ross-on-Wye to win. The Steelers also made their mark on the pitch with the 1st XV holding their own in their first season in London Three Essex after achieving promotion. Over the last 25 years, the club and global IGR community stand as a beacon of inclusive sport, linking communities across the world through their passion for the sport.


The Steelers have over 250 members in a normal year, four playing squads, and an army of new recruits each September trying rugby for the first time through our Pathway to Rugby programme. This does not mean that the challenges faced 25 years ago have improved. A recent study by Australia’s Monash University, which was backed by Premiership rugby club Harlequins concluded that 69% of males from rugby clubs in the South of England said they had heard teammates use homophobic slurs. Amongst the players studied 42% admitted to using it on the pitch and 31% had been targeted on the pitch with it, which proves there is still work to be done. Any rugby club exists for its members and 2020 has demonstrated how vital community and person to person interactions are to our physical and mental health. Having a group of like-minded individuals who have had shared experiences as they grow up around us is something, we can all appreciate the benefit of. The last few months have been increasingly challenging for members of the club and in a survey taken of our members during the recent lockdowns, 40% of them admitted that their mental health had suffered

jersey on and play for our club. We think about the players who have gone before us and who so fearlessly started the club 25 years ago in the face of so much unpleasantness towards the LGBTQ+ community. We think about the players who are yet to start playing but who will stand on the pitch in 25 years’ time and hope that they will be filled with the same amount of pride as we have now each time we represent our club and the LBGTQ+ community. We think about how initiatives such as the Rainbow Laces campaign and working with our charity partners the Terrence Higgins Trust, we are shining a light on issues we care about deeply about, but at the same time are giving something back. We also think of the wider rugby community that has embraced IGR and supported us along the way specifically the RFU, Essex Rugby, Out For Sports and Sports Media LGBT+ along with teams such as Harlequins and players such as James Haskell who proudly marched in solidarity with the Steelers at 2019’s Pride in London. during the lockdown along with their physical fitness. This is a staggering amount and one which led to the club to work tirelessly to bring back rugby for the members. Working within the government and RFU restrictions the club managed to provide meaningful rugby-based activity that saw 60 plus members participate in, per session. In addition to these training sessions, the club organised a Touch Rugby tournament for members which coincided with the club’s 25th anniversary.

This year has proved that being part of a community has never been so important and the rugby community is one of the most passionate, most welcoming but above all one of the most inclusive communities. Rugby really is for all.

One thing that is most striking about the club, as with any club is that every member has a different story. We have all come from very different backgrounds and everyone’s experience in the rugby community and within the LGBTQ+ community has been different, but the most important thing is the camaraderie on the pitch and off it. The club has been able to encapsulate the best aspects of rugby and pass these values to the players throughout the years. The coaches, the supporters, the committee members and all those people who work behind the scenes to make sure the club function are the backbone to the club community. What I have personally seen in my years at the club is the fantastic way people pull together in different circumstances to make sure the club is seen in its most positive of light. There is very much a one-club mentality at the Steelers and an enormous sense of pride each time we put a


Community news

Hertford RFC partners with the Trussell Trust Hertford RFC has become more active in their local community with support for local food banks. As we enter the winter months and the wide-ranging effects of Coronavirus continue to force people into positions of hardship, food banks in the Trussell Trust network are forecast to give out a staggering six emergency food parcels a minute. The food banks in the clubs area has seen a massive increase in demand - mainly from families who have never needed a food bank before. They believe that, as a community club they should try to help the community they are so proud to be a part of, and to that end have agreed a collaboration between The Trussell Trust and Hertford RFC. Their first collections took place the week commencing 2nd December and run up to and including the 13th December

Camberley Rugby Club follow Rashford's campaign to help out local community Equipped with their newly refurbished clubhouse, Camberley Rugby Club have taken the decision to provide additional support within their local community. Inspired by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford's successful meal voucher campaign, Camberley Rugby Club know there will be many families in their community struggling. Across the country, cafes and restaurants have been feeding children through school holidays, despite their own struggles to get through coronavirus restrictions. They have been looking for volunteers to support their initiative over the Christmas holidays within the local area. Planning has started and will be ready to kick off in time for the next school holidays. “Marcus Rashford’s initiative is something very close to my heart. Having had a number of conversations with people, both within and outside of our club community, expressing support to organise and donate to a great cause, I


feel this is the right thing to do.” Steve O’Meara, CRFC Chair "Whilst we can’t play rugby on the pitch, we can make a real difference to our local community off the pitch."With so many children engaged across our club fortunate enough to be able to take part in out of school activities and many having food readily available, it would be great to see our members helping others who are not as fortunate. This is a great opportunity to do something small to make a huge difference to others’ lives." Andy Edge, CRFC Kids First Coach.

New community defibrillator at Tregorrick Park St Austell RFC are extremely grateful to the fantastic fundraising efforts of the charity. Jay’s AIM is an amazing charity that was borne out of tragedy, following the sudden and unexpected death of James (Jay) Alexander Osborne (26/6/88 18/6/17) while exercising. Jay suffered a cardiac arrest caused by an undiagnosed hereditary heart condition known as ARVC (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy). This condition and others like it are not well-known, and neither are their symptoms, but once diagnosed these heart conditions can be managed and monitored by the medical profession. The charity Jay's AIM was formed by family and friends who were determined to make a difference by helping to reduce the number of young people suffering sudden cardiac death in the area he lived in and loved. The mission statement is to reduce the number of young people who die of sudden cardiac death in the South West of England. This objective can be met by three aims: Assess, Inform and Make a Difference. Assess: Provide information on how you can check if you or a loved one might be suffering from an undiagnosed heart condition. Inform: Spread knowledge of cardiac conditions in the young. Make a Difference: Provide emergency lifesaving equipment and life-saving training. The St Austell RFC defibrillator is located by the main clubhouse entrance at Tregorrick Park as part of the network Public Access Defibrillators (PADs) provided by Jay's AIM.

It is ideally located to support not only the 200 plus Youth players and 100 Colts and Senior players who regularly train play at Tregorrick Park, but also the various associate clubs based at the Club. This includes the Running Club, Tennis Club, Table Tennis Centre, Tregorrick Leisure Centre and neighbouring Tregorrick Youth Football Club.

teammate, mother of three and devoted wife, Intensive Care Neonatal nurse and the Founder of rugby charity Studs In The Mud was honoured for the work she is doing to encourage black and Muslim women and girls to get into playing rugby.

Two local Greenock lads have decided to raise awareness for mens mental health by running a total of 200KM in 20 days.

Affectionately known as Zee, she has had an significant inspirational impact on female players across the UK, and in Ghana and Morocco, both through her honesty and passion for playing, as well as the charity drives she heads up to provide equipment and funding women to be able to play in areas where rugby is not freely on offer. Her main charity is called "Studs in the Mud" which supports grassroots rugby in Ghana.

Jack McDaid and Ben Knox, both aged 17, have known each other since primary school are both physically active boys, playing rugby, football and anything else that keeps their body and mind healthy.

There is no sign of slowing down either, with many projects in the pipeline once restrictions are lifted, but in the meantime, Zainab continues to use her social media presence as a platform for encouraging more women to the game.

They decided to take on the challenge after seeing their own friends and family affected by mental health.

Everyone at Barnes RFC has shown their appreciation and they are all incredibly proud of Zee's achievement, and they know that this is only the start of her journey in rugby, in her charities and in helping Muslim women and girls grow through the power of rugby.

Greenock lads raise awareness for mental health


Jack currently plays rugby for Greenock Wanderers U18s, having played rugby at the club for most of his life. Although Ben doesn't play rugby himself, he has strong connections to GWRFC through ex 1st XV coach, player and current U18s coach Graham Knox. So far, they've run a total of 30km in the first 3 days of their challenge so they're on target to reach their goal. Whilst also raising awareness for men's mental health, they're also raising funds for charity Man On! - Inverclyde and have so far raised £440.

Barnes players awarded Sunday Times Vitality Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year Barnes RFC women’s player, Zainab Alema has been recognised as the Sunday Times Vitality Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year 2020 in their awards ceremony. Zainab, who is a much loved Barnes RFC

The club wishes her the best with all her future endeavours, and congratulate her for the fantastic impact she is having in growing our sport.

Hartlepool Rugby Club raise £20,000 with bounce back fundraising campaign Thanks to the generosity of their members, friends, supporters and Sport England Hartlepool Rugby Club's Bounce Back Campaign has reached it’s £20,000 target! An incredible feat. And what’s more amazing is that they have achieved this total in less than 3 weeks. These vital funds will enable them to navigate their way through this difficult period, invest in the future of the club and continue to offer Mini & Junior Rugby free of charge. On the club's crest it reads Vis Unita Fortior which translates United Strength Is Stronger - And never was that more apt. They are truly humbled and grateful for the support that they have received from the whole Hartlepool Rugby Club family and their local community.


Commercial Commercial& Community

Interview: Guernsey Raiders

Interview with Andrea Harris, Joint Chair at Guernsey Raiders Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Andrea Harris, Joint Chair at Guernsey Raiders about her role at the club and the unique position the club finds itself in regarding COVID-19. We look at things affecting community and commercial aspects of the club. A little about you… Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Can you explain the role Guernsey Raiders plays within the community?

I’m an Aussie expat whose work brought me to Guernsey for 2 years, and 8 years later I’ve settled here for the long term. I’m from Adelaide, which is an AFL / “Aussie Rules” city, and I hadn’t really heard of rugby union before I landed here.

We are a true community club – we start involving children as Academy Tots, and run right through age grade rugby, to Colts, and then senior Ladies and Men’s teams. We are a club where everyone is welcome to come and “have a go”, or come and watch some live sport in a comfortable and friendly environment. With the worldwide Covid19 pandemic, it has reinforced how much the Guernsey community enjoy coming to the clubhouse and to watch the Raiders play, and we want to ensure we can continue that enjoyment for players, supporters and members throughout our community.

One of the first friends I made after relocating to Guernsey was playing for the Ladies rugby team and after resisting her requests for about 18 months, I gave into peer pressure and started playing. What is your role at Guernsey Raiders? Shortly after I started playing, I was asked to join the Committee as Treasurer, which is a role I undertook, before being named as Vice Chairman for the 2019/20 season. Currently I am Joint Chair with Charles McHugh, and I hope that for the 2021/22 season, I will be voted as Chair of the Club for three years.

What recent community projects have Guernsey Raiders been involved with? Just prior to lockdown in March, several of the Raiders’ senior squads (men’s and ladies) helped raise awareness for the Guernsey Isolation Support Group, by distributing leaflets to businesses around the island. The Support Group was set up to help ensure that necessities found their way to those most vulnerable and in need at a time of heightened uncertainty and concern for all islanders. The Raiders also arranged for Easter treats to be delivered to the staff at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in recognition of their hard work and our appreciation for their efforts during such uncertain times. Once lockdown restrictions were lifted, the Raiders’ senior squads also helped raise money for the Social Investment Fund by attending events and locations around the island to sell “Guernsey Together” pins which were really well received.


Guernsey Raiders boast a long list of partners and sponsors. Can you let us into what your club’s relationship is like with them? Our sponsors are our lifeline. We are lucky enough to have support from many local businesses, and from some global businesses with a local presence. We enjoy hosting our sponsors and their guests at regular pre-match luncheons in our clubhouse, and there is always an opportunity for the sponsors to interact with the players after matches. We keep our sponsors regularly updated with what’s happening at the clubhouse. Guernsey Raiders are in a slightly different position to many other clubs regarding Covid-19 because of Guernsey’s different restrictions. How has Covid-19 impacted your club commercially and within the community? The worldwide pandemic has hit every organisation, rugby club or otherwise, far and wide. In Guernsey, our government moved quickly to implement a strict 14-day isolation

requirement for any passengers arriving from outside our Bailiwick. As a result, since June, we have enjoyed a freedom of life that seems a faraway dream to others at the moment, even 6 months later. We were concerned that we may be at a disadvantage because of this isolation policy when considering playing in the UK leagues in the 2020/21 season, however the RFU then cancelled the leagues for the rest of the season. The isolation requirement currently remains in place. With sponsorship, bar takings and membership our greatest revenue sources, we wanted to give something back to our wide network of supporters and we were able to host a Chairman’s Select test match series within our Raiders Men’s squad, where they were split into two teams, and played a 3 match series. The Ladies have also played a three-match series with the including 10s and a match between our current players and Ladies Vets – a first for


Interview: Guernsey Raiders Guernsey and a fixture it is hoped will be repeated in the future.

And finally, as an overview what does the future look like for Guernsey Raiders?

The governments of Guernsey and the Isle of Man reached agreement whereby an “air bridge” was formed to enable people to fly directly between the islands.

In a word – bright! We have a thriving Academy with over 350 children playing rugby from Tots up to Colts each week, and a player pathway has been developed that feeds into both our Men’s and Ladies’ squads.

As a result, our men hosted the Isle of Man’s Douglas team, our Ladies travelled to Douglas to take on the Vagabond Ladies, and some of our academy teams travelled to play in a rugby festival day in Douglas. We were also lucky enough to host some matches between our Colts and a team from King Edward College by utilising this air bridge. Of course, the financial impact has been large. We have been successful in obtaining a grant from the Social Investment Fund’s Covid 19 Community Charity Appeal, and are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our sponsors who have continued to support us during these uncertain times.


Each year we see more and more “locals” debuting in the green and white hoops for the senior teams, which is testament to the hard work of our DOR, RDO, CRCs, and volunteer coaches across all age levels. With the Men being promoted to National 2, and the Ladies consolidating in National Challenge 1, we are very keen to see the start of the 2021/22 season, and hope that our hard work throughout a very testing “year off” will pay off on the pitch.



Featured club: Amersham & Chiltern RFC

Commercial creativity in the time of COVID Amersham & Chiltern RFC recently told Rugby Blindside how they have been coping during the time of COVID and what actions they've taken to adapt to the circumstances.

Like all grassroots clubs, Amersham & Chiltern RFC ended the 2019/20 season very abruptly with takings for the financial year well below projections. Despite the best efforts of management, hopes that some of the losses could be recouped during the 2020/21 season took a further hit when the second lockdown was announced in November. With a First XV playing in London 1 North, two further regular senior sides and a thriving youth section including colts, juniors and minis, the club


has big ambitions, all of which need underpinning by steady income streams. Huw Thomas took over as chairman of A&C in July. “It’s certainly been a challenging start to my chairmanship,” says Huw. “But, like many organisations, we’re finding that adversity brings out the best in people. "I’m beyond grateful to the volunteers who help run the club who have really pulled together and adapted to the changing circumstances.

“We’ve always worked hard as a club to create proper partnerships with our sponsors and make sure they get value for their investment,” says Liz Bradshaw, who has been overseeing the club’s commercial partnerships for the past eight seasons. “We’ve been very lucky that the majority have been able to continue supporting us at similar levels to previous years so we’ve managed to retain almost 80% of our usual income from this source. “To adapt to the circumstances, we’ve changed the way we communicate with our members. "Our match programme has gone digital and is now emailed regularly to the membership with direct links to sponsor websites, so this move has actually enhanced what we were able to offer. It’s also saved us on printing costs, so we hope we’ll be able to do more of this in the future.” Although some of the club’s sponsorship agreements came to a natural end, one or two of its long-standing supporters from industries hardest hit by the pandemic found themselves unable to commit to their usual levels of funding. In these cases, the committee took the decision that now was the time to repay the loyalty those sponsors have shown to the club. “Income is obviously hugely important, but so is staying true to the spirit of the club,” says Liz. “Where local businesses have been supporting us for years, it was time for a bit of payback.” Huw is very aware that it’s not just the commercial side of that has had to make big changes. “This has really been a time for pulling together across the club.

“The sense of community within the club that we’ve worked hard to build over the years has come into its own. "The vast majority of members have continued to pay their subs, despite the fact that training has been disrupted and none of the teams have played a significant game of rugby this season. We’ve also received some generous one-off donations for which we are extremely thankful.”

"Our volunteer coaches and age group organisers have been amazing at adapting to the new requirements that ensure we are COVID-secure. "Players, and parents of the younger age groups, have continued to turn out whenever we’ve been permitted to train, observing all the new protocols, and there’s still a strong sense of camaraderie. "There’s so much to be proud of at this club, it gives me great hope for the future.”

The sense of community has also been reflected in the support the club has received from sponsors.


Commercial news

London Welsh announce Wine collaboration London Welsh RFC has announced a Wine collaboration with club Patron and Master of Wine, Greg Sherwood. Greg has been at the club for four years, coaching his son Louis in the Minis and also been present at their match day lunches and sponsored 1st XV player Rhodri Dawes last season. However, Greg also happens to be one of London's leading Wine connoisseurs as senior buyer at Kensington based Handford Wines. After numerous conversations with enthusiastic members of London Welsh and some encouragement from Gareth V Jones, club Director; the club and Greg have decided to launch the London Welsh RFC Wine selection. Thanks to Greg, this initiative is set to contribute a significant amount of revenue directly back to the club and will allow their members and supporters to experience fine wines at affordable prices. The intention is to have a different collection every quarter and Greg has decided to launch this service with a case called, 'Christmas In a Box’. The case indues a bottle of Fizz, 1 Port, 1 White and 3 bottles of Red all specially chosen for the Members of London Welsh to enjoy over the festive period. Members can support their club by enjoying some of the specially selected wines by Greg, for you. Greg was also the guest on the London Welsh RFC club podcast, where he talked about his interest in wine and how much he enjoys being part of the club. He also takes you through the Wine service and the first case in more detail and samples some of the wine with Gareth! Greg commented on the exciting initiative: "It is a pleasure to offer my services to London Welsh members, who are able to purchase some fine wines that are seasonal and have been chosen for with their specific enjoyment in mind; whilst providing an opportunity for us all to contribute back to the club. I can’t wait to hear any feedback from the members about the wine that I have chosen and what they would like in future selections. I really enjoy being part of the London Welsh Community and have met some great people at the club. I love being at Old Deer Park on match days and also coaching my son in the Under 10’s."


Gareth V Jones commented, "Having personally benefitted from Greg’s industry expertise, I am delighted that he has put this service together for our members. Seeing how much our members enjoy drinking wine at the match day lunches, they will be able to order the collection and get it delivered to their door in a matter of a couple of clicks. The key thing is that the club will benefit with every purchase and the first collection is perfect for your own use; a Christmas gift or for corporate customers."

Just the tonic! Kendall RFC's fundraising efforts With Lockdown 2 underway, rugby matches cancelled and bar revenue absent, Kendal Rugby Club has come up with a new way to have a little fun before Christmas and importantly raise much needed funds for the club. Kendal Rugby Club has partnered with spirit specialists Distillers Kitchen to produce a Gin and Vodka under the names K-Gin and K-Vodka, with both drinks themed as Northern Stronghold Spirits. Distillers Kitchen is the brainchild of worldrenowned distiller Jamie Baxter and was initially set up to build distilleries and create recipes for some of the UK’s leading craft spirits labels. With a reputation for delivering exceptional spirits Distillers Kitchen were approached by corporates, charities, and celebrities to create blends of gin, vodka, and rum. Whilst building the Tuilagi Gin brand for rugby superstar Manu Tuilagi, they developed and refined a unique proposition to produce spirits on demand for sports clubs. The club could have its own spirit brand, produce a memorable collectable label, sell it to their fans and raise much needed club funds, while engaging members with a ‘fun project’ and a club-branded product they can be proud of. The K-Vodka carries the club’s logo, whilst the KGin features Kendal’s very own Samuel Airey Martindale, who played for Kendal and gained representative honours with the County, England in 1929 (player 650) and the British Lions (player 260) on the new Zealand and Australian tour of 1930. Both products are premium 40% proof spirits, priced at £25 for a 70cl bottle, with £5.00 from each bottle donated to support the Club.

Matt Payne from Distillers Kitchen elaborates: “The Club Spirits are really taking off for us with partners now including Premiership football clubs and many rugby clubs. I really like the way Kendal created the ‘K’ brand. It is also great to see a nod to the history of the club with a dedicated Gin to club and local legend Sam Martindale, I’m sure not just the club but the community as a whole will rally and support K-Vodka and K-Gin (while drinking responsibly of course!)” Steve Green, Chairman of Kendal Rugby explained: “Everyone knows that local sports clubs are under pressure. We hope our members and supporters will get behind the idea and join us for a tipple at home cheering on the Autumn international matches, as well as celebrating Christmas with a Kendal spirit. It’s a fun idea, that looks and tastes great too”.

Widnes RUFC receive sponsorship support Widnes RUFC were delighted to receive some additional financial support recently from locally based business Cheshire Bathrooms and Tiles. It is a welcome boost for the Club who have been without any meaningful rugby action on the pitch since last March, and are currently locked down once again because of the Liverpool City Region Tier 3 regulations. The much-needed support came from Billy Woods, himself an accomplished former player who has chosen to offer some help to the Club he used to play for. The company have acquired a large and impressive advertising board which overlooks the first team pitch at Heath Road.

Darlington Mowden Park #YourClub campaign After 6 weeks, Darlington Mowden Park's #YourClub CrowdFunding campaign has reached over £20,000! Darlington Mowden Park RFC Chairman, Mark Birch, said: "I wanted to personally thank the Mowden Family for all your support over recent months. 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and the support of our members, supporters and volunteers has been truly humbling. Thanks to your generosity our CrowdFunding campaign has raised over £20,000 to help the club through the COVID-19 pandemic. All donations, whether big or small, have helped us reach our fundraising target and I am hugely grateful for everyone who has pledged their support at what is a difficult time financially for so many. Your support has extended beyond the #YourClub campaign too. We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of members who have renewed their subscriptions and season tickets early to support the club financially. As with many sports clubs across the country, our membership revenue is a vital income stream for us and the early renewal of so many members really helped us through the early months of this pandemic.

Billy, who is Managing Director of the company said “As an ex Wids rugby union player myself, I wanted to continue to support one of our local sports teams in the area and we are delighted to be able to do so.”

In addition to all of this financial help, the support of our members, supporters and volunteers has reached much further. We have been inundated with messages of support over recent months and your positivity at such a testing time has been truly inspiring. As an example of this I welcome you all to scroll through the comments on our CrowdFunder page and read through the waves of supportive messages. A rugby club is only ever as good as its people, and this has served as a reminder of what a special club this is.

In response, Club President Martin Griffiths said “We are thrilled that Cheshire Bathrooms and Tiles have agreed to sponsor the Wids despite these current, difficult times. And, we are even more delighted that a former player has decided to support us in this way. Help such as this from local businesses is the lifeblood of the Club, and we are extremely grateful to Billy and the team to have received such a generous offer of support”.

We are not out of the woods yet, but there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been buoyed by the return of Premier 15s rugby for the Sharks, and we’re optimistic about the proposals for cup rugby for our Men’s 1st XV in the new year. News of vaccinations has also brightened the prospects for the return of community rugby in the not-so-distant future for the remainder of our 27 teams."



A new format for British & Irish club rugby By Will Roberts Professional club rugby is at a crossroads. The game is growing slowly, but the constant comparison with football’s Premier League portrays a dim view on its progress. Currently the British and Irish club game is divided and there is a competitive environment being created in which the Premiership and Pro14 are competing for audiences and sponsorship revenue. The current state-of-play in society means we are all trying to come together and work as one to defeat a common enemy (COVID-19). My questions is: can club rugby learn from this? This would mean both leagues working together to create a combined league system for the benefit of the game and fans. The Premiership and Pro14 currently includes twenty-two British and Irish clubs. The idea would be to create a tiered league system with two divisions of eleven clubs each. These would be Division 1 and Division 2 – They would adopt the promotion and relegation league format rather than the conference style currently played in the Pro14. Which club goes in which division could be arranged via a qualification process. For example, to determine the eleven clubs for Division 1 the following could occur. At the end of a season the top six in the Premiership, the top two in Conference A and B of the Pro14 and a playoff match between the two clubs finishing third in each Conference of the Pro14 would result in the eleven Division 1 clubs. The remaining eleven clubs in the Premier and Pro14 would play in Division 2.


There could be twenty rounds of games for each division. Each team could play ten home games and ten away games against teams within their division. The points structure could follow the same standard used within the game: four points for a win, two for a draw and bonus points. At the end of the season the club with most points in Division 1 would be crowned ‘Division 1 Champions’ – the best team in Britain and Ireland. Bragging rights that I’m sure many clubs would dream of having. Teams finishing in tenth and eleventh position in Division 1 would be relegated to Division 2. The top two teams in Division 2 would be promoted to Division 1, with the team finishing in first place in Division 2 going up as ‘Promotion Champions’. Here’s an example of what the divisions could look like:

British and Irish teams in the Premiership and Pro14 play in the secondary competition – the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Quite simply, in the new format teams finishing first – ninth in Division 1 and the two promoted teams from Division 2 would qualify for the following seasons Champions Cup. Conversely, the two relegated teams and the nine teams that finished third – eleventh in Division 2 would qualify for the Challenge Cup. This European qualification process will add to the increased competition between clubs. The thought of being relegated and not competing in the top domestic tier or top European Cup competition would weigh heavy on clubs, especially those that consider themselves to be the ‘big’ clubs. Some may also say that this new format might isolate lower league clubs in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales that are semi-pro or on the cusp of pushing for professionalism. Admittedly yes, this might happen at first. However, as the new two Division league format develops and thrives this could birth an additional eleven team Division 3. This could be populated with teams from the English Championship, Welsh Premiership, Ireland’s All Ireland leagues and Scotland’s new Forsoc Super 6.

*Example Division 1 and Division 2 structure based on positions finished in Premiership and Pro14 2019/20 seasons. **Play-off game between Glasgow Warriors and Scarlets would determine Division assignment. The inclusion of promotion and relegation to the league format adds jeopardy. This is one of the most important aspects of any sport. It will increase competition amongst the clubs as well as fan engagement with the game. This will lead to a more attractive ‘product’ and therefore more money will be pumped into the game via tv revenue, sponsorship and attendance/viewership will rise. A more successful professional game will also positively impact the grassroots level. Having two divisions also means that the qualification for European cup competitions is simplified. Usually eleven teams from the Premiership and Pro14 automatically qualify for Europe’s leading cup competition – the European Rugby Champions Cup. The remaining eleven

In addition to the new league format a new British and Irish domestic cup competition could be established. There’s an opportunity here to create an FA Cup-style cup competition in which lower league clubs can get a big draw against top level clubs. The domestic cup could include all clubs at national playing levels in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Like the FA Cup, the lower league clubs could compete in the earlier rounds and the bigger teams enter later on in the competition. The competition would also bring the grassroots and professional game closer together. It would provide the opportunity for a revenue boost for smaller clubs with a big club fixture tie or just give national clubs in different countries a new opportunity to ply their trade against each other. Unifying the British and Irish club game could do wonders for the sport. Of course, there could be some teething problems at first but down the line I think each nation would reap the rewards at both the professional and grassroots level.


Club news

Richmond Rugby partner with the John Fisher School Richmond Rugby has announced a new partnership with The John Fisher School in Purley, to support and develop their rugby programme and to offer students playing opportunities at the club. With Richmond boasting five senior men’s teams, including our First XV playing in the Men’s Championship, the partnership will provide students who have aspirations to continue their rugby outside of school or university with an elite playing programme to develop and improve their game. Richmond Director of Rugby Steve Hill, said: 'We are delighted to have established this partnership with The John Fisher School. This pairing will help ensure that when John Fisher rugby players leave school they know where to come to continue their development, realise their rugby ambitions and to thoroughly enjoy remaining involved in the wonderful game of rugby.” Tom Street Head of Rugby at John Fisher School, said: “I am very excited about our new partnership with RichmondRugby and how this will further develop our rugby programme at The John Fisher School. Richmond have an outstanding rugby programme, but what really impresses me is that although they play in the Men’s Championship, they are very much a player focused club who cater for all levels. Our elite players will gain the opportunities to further develop their skill set within a Championship environment, which can lead to a potential pathway. Above all, at The John Fisher School we pride ourselves on creating well rounded young men and believe that this can be further developed at Richmond.” Dom Palacio, Head of Community and Senior Saxons coach, will oversee the integration of The John Fisher School players into the Richmond Rugby playing programme.

Vale of Lune RUFC announce new Interim Chair The Board of Directors are pleased to announce the appointment of Mike Hinchcliffe as Interim Chair as from Tuesday 23rd November 2020. Paul Batty, although still very involved in the day to day operational support of the Club, has decided to


step down from his role as Chairman. The Board of Directors, on behalf of the Club would like to thank Paul very much for his support during his tenure and for all the hard work he has done and continues to do for the Vale. The Board of Directors welcomes Mike Hinchcliffe as a co-opted Director and interim Chair. Mike made the following statement. “Most of you will not be surprised to find out officially that I’m the latest addition to the board. It’s been fascinating getting more involved in the Club and seeing just how much goes on behind the scenes. The time, effort and expertise that the whole team puts into making the Club a success is very commendable. "What has been achieved, particularly over the last few years, has been remarkable and the commitment to continue that development is really impressive. "I hope that I can bring some of my professional Human Resources expertise and experience to help the Club along that path. Having been involved at Morecambe Football Club over the last 10 years in various capacities I’m sure that experience will also be invaluable. It’s a challenging time with everything that’s going on at the moment, but exciting, and I’m looking forward to helping where I can. "I’m a local lad, a former player at Colts and junior team level, a keen supporter of the Club and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the match day experience at Powderhouse Lane. After working ‘down south’ and overseas it was great to return home, catch some more games and meet up with some old friends. "My dad was a keen supporter of the Vale of Lune rugby club over a long period of time. He did a lot to help the club and some of my earliest memories are of me “helping” him sort out five team’s worth of rugby jerseys in the clubhouse. This always ended with a kickabout in the bar with a rugby ball bladder, no wonder I was never much of a footballer! "That said the next best thing for me now is getting more involved with the Club and just doing what I can to help build for the future. I’m honoured to be asked to take up the role of Interim Chair and hopefully will be able to meet up with many of you in the not too distant future."

New Club President at Manchester Rugby Club Following the sad passing of their Club President Martin Losse in March this year, Manchester Rugby, Cheadle Hulme CC & Grove Park Squash had to come together to elect a new president to help steer the Club through these difficult times. Suzanne Morton has acted as Honorary Secretary for MRC, team manager for our Colts team and subsequent MAKOS venture with near neighbours Stockport RFC. A popular face around Grove Park, Suzanne does so much more than her titles suggest going above and beyond what is asked of her to help enhance the atmosphere around the Club; for the betterment of the Club as a whole. They are delighted to confirm that at last night's AGM, Suzanne was voted in as the new (and first female) Club President! With much to help sort out in the coming months her aim is to help the club in to the next phase in a stronger position than they were before.

Fullerians RFC appoint new club treasurer Fullerians RFC has announced the appointment of Jon Bunyard as its new acting Treasurer. Jon has been co-opted onto the management committee and will take on the role of Treasurer until the next General Meeting of the club’s membership, when it is hoped that he will stand for election to the official officer position of Club Treasurer. A lifelong rugby fan, born and bred in Watford, Jon’s son George joined Fullerians three years ago. After some time as a frustrated parent on the touch line, Jon joined the coaching team a couple of years ago, proudly wearing the red on Fridays and Sundays come rain or shine. Professionally Jon joined Computacenter, a local IT company, in 1987. The company was initially founded in Swindon with the desire to be the largest the largest IT computer dealer in Wiltshire and is now a £5bn global IT services business. Jon is the UK’s head of commercial finance. Malcolm Harrison, Fullerians RFC Chairman, said “I am delighted welcome Jon onto the committee and into this vital role within the club. Jon brings significant financial experience to the club’s committee, along with a keen eye for detail and a

passion for rugby. I would like to thank Pete Samuel for his long and distinguished service to the club as both Club Treasurer, and as Club Secretary before that.” Jon will be leading our Finance Sub-Committee, managing the club’s finances, contributing to strategic business planning, as well as reviewing and recommending policies to ensure the financial security and prosperity of the club.

New appointments at Mansfield Rugby club Mansfield Rugby Club has announced that Nick Hughes will take over the role of Hon Secretary from long standing committee member Dylan Howells. Dylan is stepping down for health reasons and he was thanked for his hard work and dedication to Mansfield Rugby Club by Chairman Andy Foster who said, "Anyone who knows Dyl will tell you that he is the consummate club man. I've had the pleasure of working with my old friend for many years, and in fact, presenting him with a number of awards on behalf of the club over the years for his tireless commitment to the club. I've long been an admirer of his 'just do it' attitude and the way Dylan just gets on with things with the minimum of fuss is impressive. We wish him well and in Nick we have a very capable and dedicated club man cut from the same cloth as Dyl to take us into the future. He's a former Club Captain and is Head of Women's & Girls rugby at the club so he knows the club as well as anyone". A further announcement came as Pete Steffen stepped down from the role of Club Captain making way for Lee Kirk to take over with immediate effect. Foster continued, "These are difficult times and Pete has taken a temporary work contract in the South of England. I'm a big believer in, family comes first, and Pete is taking care of his family's future. "He's done a great job for us as club Captain and of course he will remain as a director and serve on the committee. Lee is the perfect replacement for Pete, possessing a thorough Mansfield Rugby Club pedigree and as a former First XV Captain he is well aware of the wants and needs of players. He is a capable and industrious person who takes great pride in getting things done. I'm sure Lee will do well in the role".


From the professional game

Support floods in for Kevin Sinfield’s 7 in 7 challenge

World Rugby announce global rise in rugby interest in 2019

Supporters and companies have been fast to react to the incredible challenge set by Leeds Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield with the fund-raising effort already heading towards £15,000 in less than 24 hours since the launch.

A comprehensive report published by World Rugby today, exactly one year on from the Rugby World Cup 2019 final, based on results from two global surveys has highlighted the sport’s strong growth in both established and emerging rugby nations during 2019.

As well as raising funds for Burrow and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Sinfield is also wanting to send out a strong message of support for all families, like Burrow’s own, who are dealing with the cruel disease during the lockdown. As part of the week long campaign, people with MND or their families are encouraged to post their support on social media.

In a game-changing year for the sport, there was a significant increase in the perceived attractiveness of the sport resulting in a sharp increase in interest, inspired by the rise of women in rugby and a trail-blazing Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

Premiership Rugby extend partnership with Gilbert Premiership Rugby will be using a Gilbert rugby ball for the 24th consecutive season. A proud moment for both brands, as Premiership Rugby confirm the news of their partnership extension. Gilbert’s Sirius match ball will feature in both Gallagher Premiership Rugby and the Premiership Rugby Cup. The preferred choice of the world’s leading nations, Gilbert has been the official ball at the Rugby World Cup for the last seven consecutive tournaments and will be used exclusively at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand and France 2023. Bath Rugby’s Rhys Priestland, who was the Gilbert Golden Boot winner for the 2019-20 season said: “For players across the league having a world-leading match ball, brings confidence in executing during matches what we practice day in day out on the training field. It is important for us all, within Gallagher Premiership Rugby, to have the ability to train and compete with such high-quality rugby balls.” Dating back to 1823, Gilbert has a unique heritage in rugby with William Gilbert supplying some of the very first rugby balls to Rugby School since – as legend has it – that William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball and ran with it.


RFU and Allianz announce partnership for the Premier 15s

RLWC 2021 announces Unicef UK as charity partner

The Rugby Football Union has announced Allianz Insurance as the new Insurance Partner of England Rugby and the title partner for the Premier 15s, with the official name of the competition being ‘Allianz Premier 15s’.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) has announced support for its Official Charity Partner, Unicef UK, with 50p of every ticket transaction going to raise funds for the vital work undertaken by the charity.

Allianz is committed to supporting the top-flight women’s domestic rugby competition in England as well as the England Rugby teams and the community game in line with its commitment to promoting inclusion, diversity and excellence.

The partnership will use the power of sport to raise awareness and funds for UNICEF’s work around the world as well as giving the tournament an impactful platform to help improve the economic and social wellbeing of children.