COVID-19 outbreak brought a halt to income from March 17th, effectively stalling close season pitch maintenance and clubhouse improvements.
by John Loughnane in Widnes, England, United Kingdom
Widnes Rugby Union Football Club (commonly known as The Wids) is the main community amateur sports club in an area of social deprivation.
Founded in 1924 as Old Widnesians, the club moved into its own building and grounds in 1959. The club has promoted Colts (youth) Rugby since 1960 and Mini-Juniors (under 7s upwards) successfully since 1991. With a strong emphasis on families, it is by no means unusual for fathers and sons to be playing in the same team. The vast majority of the current 1st XV squad came through the juniors. That same team won three trophies last season and were on course for a similar haul in 2019-20. As it turned out, they have had to settle for the ADM Lancashire Premier League title.
Entirely run by volunteers, the club is largely reliant on match-day revenue and social functions for finance. This came to an abrupt halt with the Covid-19 outbreak. The virus threat has had a devastating effect on plans and cashflow projection.
As an example, two home matches and four functions were scheduled in the nine days following lockdown. With seven weeks until the end of the season and the distinct possibility of the 1st XV reaching two cup finals, all had seemed rosy. The Annual Dinner and Captain's Barbecue were likely to make good profits and, with the function room now a local events venue of choice, spring and summer promised to generate enough income to guarantee the long term sustainability of the club.
While still financially sound, the club has experienced an interruption in income that seriously jeopardises the projected pitch maintenance and clubhouse upgrades which had been scheduled for the coming months. In addition to the usual seeding, marking and painting, new posts are needed on one pitch and, ideally, netting to prevent balls landing on the adjacent Liverpool-Manchester railway line. The club buildings need roof repairs in gym/changing room area as well as improvements to heating and air conditioning. Any pledges received will be used to get this work back on track.
As you can see from these photographs, volunteers do the hard graft. Past President Graham McLean was named Lancashire RFU Groundsman of the Year in 2017 while fellow Past President Sam Cook, currently Club Treasurer, literally demonstrates his hands-on approach installing a new ceiling in the concert room.
Don't just take our word for it. Here are three outside voices commenting on the important role of Widnes RUFC. The word "community" appears in each.
"I have been working to support Widnes Rugby Union Club for the past 15 years and they have been proactive in the community supporting players, coaches, parents, volunteers and social members.
"The club has always worked along-side community partners to help deliver on the local priority areas for improvement. Skills development, health issues, social well- being and safer neighbourhoods are some issues that the club have helped to make a difference to in the Borough of Halton."
Jane Rhodes - former Halton Borough Council Sports & Physical Activity Development Officer
"As a native of Widnes, I am very aware of the work of Widnes RUFC over the years. The club exists ostensibly to provide an opportunity for local players to enjoy rugby. However, it is clearly much more than this. In my professional role, I have witnessed first hand the benefits of the club and its work to the community and especially in terms of health promotion. The community which surrounds the buildings and its playing fields at Widnes RUFC comprises far greater an array of people than simply the players – and the club achieves much more than rugby and player support."
Ged Flynn – Chief Executive PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide)
"Rugby is about Community. Come here and you’re surrounded by volunteers. They don’t want anything out of it - just a legacy of the club going forward and improving."
Bill Beaumont – Chairman of World Rugby
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