Founded in 1932, OERFC has been an integral part of the Bristol rugby landscape for many years and has a proud history of promoting running rugby and providing an enjoyable and inclusive environment for players and spectators. We have enjoyed great success over the past 10 years but have now reached a point where our facilities are holding us back. Our strong engagement with our community has opened up a number of opportunities to expand our offering but to do so we need to develop our dated facilities which have suffered a lack of funding due to the pandemic and cost of living crisis.
During the pandemic we bucked the trend that many clubs experienced by actually growing the number of members that were actively engaged with the club and thus strengthening our rugby community. But the club was also hit financially and is in desperate need of additional funding to improve its facilities to enable us to meet the needs of our community. Fundamentally, we need more space - as well as bringing facilities up to modern standards - and have received planning permission for an extension to the existing clubhouse. We have worked hard to raise almost 3/4 of the sum required but now need one final push to get this project over the line.
OERFC has 4 key outcomes from the extension project:
1. Increase male playing numbers
We have seen an up-tick in numbers wanting to play rugby for us. The current facilities limit us to 2 teams playing at the club on a given day and fall far short of the RFU’s minimum standards. This has led to the club not being able to provide matches for all players on occasions and a sub-par experience for those that do play. Our club development plan has identified the lack of facilities as the primary factor holding the club back from playing at a higher level and increasing playing numbers.
2. Enable the full running of a social initiative with a focus on mental health provision
During the pandemic we realised the importance of club’s role in supporting the mental health of it’s members – particularly young men who are acknowledged to be an “at risk” group in terms of mental health. The negative effects of the lockdowns are widely known and we started to see some of our own members struggling so we ran a number of initiatives to ensure people felt part of a community and could reach out and speak to others. We have then built on this work in the past 3 years.
The links between good physical health and mental health are well recognised but research shows that team sports help men to open up and connect with others about their mental health and team mates are likely to support each other. We have started a social rugby team under the banner of the “Thundercats” designed at getting men of all ages back playing rugby, or even trying out rugby for the first time. In addition to regular matches on Saturdays, we want to expand this to offer mid-week non-contact social rugby followed by food and drink in the clubhouse which would be open to all, whether wanting to play or not, as everyone should have the opportunity to belong to a club and feel welcomed, engaged, safe and supported. The changes we have planned to the clubhouse will enable us to provide the right environment for this important initiative.
3. Enable the club to expand its women’s social touch rugby team to a full team
We currently have a strong group of women’s social touch rugby players using the club over the summer months but the barrier to year-round use is the poor state of the existing facilities, in particular the changing and shower provision (changing rooms opening directly to outside and have complete lack of privacy) which our women are not prepared to use. The new facilities will enable the continuation of social women’s touch through-out the winter months and it is hoped would lead to the establishment of a new women’s contact rugby squad.
4. Provision of an indoor space capable of hosting toddler rugby groups and other functions.
The new social space will provide a safe, secure and warm inside space which opens up multiple opportunities for using the space for alternative uses. One such use that is planned is the provision of a toddler’s rugby group which will be open to the whole community. Additionally, we have already had interest from a number of local businesses about hire of the new space for various functions.
The planned extension will bring the facilities up to the Rugby Football Union (RFU – the sport’s Governing Body) minimum standards and will enhance the exterior of the clubhouse, which is currently uninviting. The work will include new changing and shower facilities for players and referees, and a new larger social / bar space served by new men’s and women’s toilets and a fit for purpose kitchen. We have approximately 3/4 of the funds required so are aiming to raise a further £20k to enable the project to commence.
The club is open to all, whether a rugby player or not. We provide a hub for the local community and the new space will be available for use by groups and businesses from outside of the club membership. We have hosted weddings, parties and training courses amongst other events in the past.
Perhaps out most important community benefit will be the mental health initiative where anyone can drop in and feel part of a club - either joining in with some social touch rugby or just to have a chat and some food in a safe space.
There are four simple ways to help us reach our target, and make this project a reality.
1. Make a pledge. Don’t delay if you’re going to support us because momentum is key to our success!
2. Spread the word. Share our project on your social media pages and tell the world to get behind us! The more people we reach, the more support we will get.
3. Offer rewards. Get involved if you are a local business by donating things we can offer to our supporters. We will give you a shout out!
4. Fundraise for us. If you want to run your own fundraiser – maybe a sponsored activity or similar – use the 'contact project' button at the top of our page to let us know. Setting up your own page only takes a few minutes and you won’t need any bank details. Just a fun idea!