Rugby trying to find answers for the future

Honiton Rugby Club

Honiton Rugby Club - Credit: Archant

Rugby trying to find answers for the future

Honiton Rugby Club is following a national pathway of trying to retain enthusiasm and optimism for a positive future in the sport they love.

Grassroots rugby was very close to a return before the latest lockdown and Honiton, like all other clubs, are fearing that the current situation will send the sport back to square one in terms of a restart.

“We’ve had to sit back and watch local football taking place, while rugby is not allowed,” said Jeremy Rice from Honiton Rugby Club.

“It’s no criticism of football, rugby is a sport with far more physical contact and those are the current rules.

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“If you think about a scrum, with people’s heads going against each other, it’s pretty obvious that we can’t play at the moment.

“It is frustrating for everyone involved, especially as we had almost reached the stage of playing competitive rugby before this second lockdown.

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“Our governing body, the RFU, have a tier system and we had reached the point of being able to train together as a group, with 15 minutes of contact in that bubble.

“Unfortunately, the new lockdown means we have gone back to the beginning of that system.

“The league structure was hoped to start in January but it now seems that any competition this year is unlikely to take place.

“The hope is that we will be able to play in cluster leagues after Christmas against teams based nearby.”

The arrival of a new coach at Honiton has helped to inject renewed positivity and it is that focus on maintaining enthusiasm for the sport that will be crucial to the survival of grassroots rugby.

It is particularly important at junior level, with a focus on nurturing young talent and players that will potentially become the future of Honiton Rugby Club.

“We appointed a new coach this year, Dan Woods, who has been teaching at Leeds University,” said Rice.

“He’s brought loads of enthusiasm and the biggest challenge is that you train in readiness to play matches, when we all know that’s not possible.

“We’ve got eight teams across the junior age groups and we’re desperately to ensure they are able to train, just to keep them interested.

“A lot of people will play football on a Saturday and rugby on a Sunday, so it has been hugely frustrating.

“There have been discussions about playing touch rugby but it’s obviously not the same.

“We are very grateful to Dan for his positivity and enthusiasm, keeping players motivated for training, with a hope to finally making a return to competitive rugby.”

The sad reality for many local sports clubs is that a continuation of the current trend could lead to closures.

It is, therefore, extremely encouraging that sponsors and partners of Honiton Rugby Club have continued to provide financial support at any time when there is no other source of revenue.

“The financial implications have been tough as well,” added Rice.

“We have the club function rooms and a bar.

“We’ve only got a limited amount of time to raise money and that normally happens on a match-day.

“We also encourage all the players to have a sponsor and there is advertising boards around the pitch.

“It all goes toward financing rugby at Honiton and we are so grateful to the sponsors who have been able to continue supporting the club, even when no competitive rugby is being played.

“We are all volunteers at the club and that financial input is so important.

“For many clubs, it has been a question of how they will be able to continue.

“At Honiton, we are desperate to get people back playing and enjoying the rugby.

“The loyalty of our sponsors is vital and enables us to function. We are a community club and it is great to have such local support.”

While the road remains uncertain for grassroots rugby, it is that local enthusiasm and community support that will make the difference in the end.

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