It has been 25 years since an impromptu game at Millwall Park led to the founding of Millwall Rugby Club. Since then, the club and the sport of rugby union has grown to be at the heart of the community on the Isle of Dogs in London’s Docklands. Unfortunately, what was to have been a year of celebration for the club has instead seen a suspension of all competitive rugby and curtailment of social activities. Despite the challenges posed by 2020, the club is seeing strong signs of recovery in the numbers participating in training - particularly in the growing youth section.
As Friends of Millwall Rugby Club, we want to make sure the club stays strong and continues to grow grass-roots rugby in Tower Hamlets for the next 25 years and beyond. However, we need your support!
A 25 year legacy
Millwall Rugby Club was started by a small group in the Pier Tavern on the Isle of Dogs following the 1995 World Cup. The Docklands were not traditionally associated with rugby union, but there proved to be a strong appetite for the sport among those living in the area. The club’s entire history is a testament to volunteer spirit. Nothing exemplifies this better than the building of a clubhouse in the railway arches adjacent to Millwall Park in 2007. Having this home to call its own has allowed the club to thrive both on and off the pitch. Currently, the club runs two men’s sides, a ladies’ team, and a range of youth age groups open to all experience and skill levels. The club has also hosted and run summer tournaments, open days, touch rugby tournaments, and youth competitions.
Remarkably, Millwall is the only rugby club in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which is home to over 320,000 people. With a catchment area amongst the most diverse in the country, our club is a place where people from all backgrounds can come together to enjoy the great sport of rugby union. It has provided a warm welcome to many who moved to the area from overseas, and given hundreds of local children their first taste of rugby.
The next 25 years
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) prioritises diversity, and has emphasised that the sport must be welcoming to all if it is to recover, grow, and thrive in the aftermath of COVID-19. Much focus is being placed on reaching out to those who have no family history of playing rugby and do not learn the game at school. Due to its location in the heart of the Docklands, Millwall Rugby Club is perfectly placed to bring the rugby values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship to a new, diverse audience.
The key ambitions that will shape the club’s growth over the next 25 years include:
To continue to provide an open and welcoming community, a space where anyone – no matter their background or experience level – can play rugby in a friendly and supportive environment
To increase participation in playing, coaching, refereeing and volunteering
To field teams in more youth age groups, giving older teenagers the positive benefits of local rugby and providing a direct pathway to the adult teams
To help Londoners get more active in order to support physical and mental health and wellbeing
Your support will help to drive us forward!
Supporting our Community through Sport
As a result of COVID-19, access to sport has been greatly reduced in Tower Hamlets. Recognising the importance of team sport for the wellbeing of members and the community more generally, Millwall Rugby Club restarted in-person training sessions for men, women, and youth in July, guided by the RFU and their “Return to Rugby Road Map”, which has been developed in conjunction with the government to ensure the safe training and playing of rugby. Use of the road map ensures that current as well as new participants can still benefit physically and mentally from rugby training at a time when they are experiencing significant social restrictions in other aspects of their lives.
The wellbeing challenges facing Tower Hamlets predated COVID-19. Multiple studies over the years have shown that Tower Hamlets has some of the most unequal health and wellbeing outcomes in the country. For example:
- Only 15.7% of Tower Hamlets residents report using outdoor space for exercise/health reasons – one of the lowest rates in London.
- Even before the pandemic started, only 42.2% of children and 28.6% of adults in Tower Hamlets exercised less than 30 minutes per week
- Highest levels of self-reported depression and anxiety in London (16%).
However, national-level data already shows that COVID-19 has further impacted mental and physical wellbeing, as well as people’s ability to exercise. Many local residents were already dealing with isolation, loneliness, and other wellbeing issues, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought these challenges into sharp focus.
Cost should not be a barrier to the physical and mental benefits of team sport. Thus, although Millwall Rugby Club is a members’ club, all training sessions are open to non-members. These free sessions are held twice a week for adults and once a week for children. It is hoped that free fitness sessions can help the local community combat the multiple health and wellbeing issues it currently faces.
How Millwall Rugby Club will spend the money
All money donated will help ensure the club can thrive for another 25 years...and beyond! Specifically, we need your help to:
Continue the Men’s, Women’s and Youth Teams’ safe return to rugby during COVID-19 by maintaining required safety measures.
Reach out to more Tower Hamlets residents, with dedicated training sessions for new players and those returning to rugby.
Purchase essential kit and rugby equipment for all sections of the club.
Pay for volunteers to attend coaching and refereeing courses, to the benefit of the wider rugby community in East London and Essex.
Continue the hardship fund, which ensures the club is accessible to all those who want to play rugby.
Increase the club’s supply of portable floodlights and batteries, which enable training during the winter months.
Provide our players with appropriate medical support, including first aid training and support from physios.
Fund minibus rental, ensuring that all players can attend matches.
From everyone at Millwall, our players, members, coaches, volunteers and many more thank you for supporting us. You are helping us to keep our rugby community going through the COVID-19 pandemic and for many years to come.