Mon 07 Sep 2020 13:10

SIDMOUTH CHAIRMAN

 

My time on the Devon RFU committee came to an end in 1998 when I was elected as chairman at Sidmouth. I had been a member of the committee since being appointed as fixture secretary in 1980.

 

This was two years after rugby became a professional game in 1996 and the resulting chaos caused by the RFU’s lack of planning and consideration of the potential consequences.

 

Richmond and London Scottish were early casualties of paying beyond their means. Both went into administration, had to reform, and start again in the lower levels of the league structure. London Welsh are more recent failures. And Saracens are current victims of overweening ambition.

 

The community game has not been immune and is littered with clubs which have risen through the leagues using money they could not afford and come crashing down when reality bites. In the South West, Penryn, St Austell and St Ives are examples.

 

Cornish Pirates, once Penzance and Newlyn, are a rare success story but have relied on a millionaire backer. Their offshoot Mounts Bay, formed in 1999, provides a more sobering story. They enjoyed eight promotions in nine seasons to reach level threecrippling debt caused them to fold.

The result was a lot of discarded players in Cornwall looking for clubs who would pay them, as some did to their cost.

Sidmouth were one of only three clubs to beat them in their rise through the tables, a 27-25 victory in a Western Counties West fixture at the Blackmore Field in 2005.  

 

This has never been an issue at Sidmouth as the idea of paying players has never been considered. We are a community club to provide rugby for the people in the Sid Valley and the surrounding area. Any profit we make is invested in our facilities.

 

A major source of that profit comes from Folk Week activity, particularly car parking and camper vans, an initiative which was the brainchild of Duncan Nice in 1992.

 

In the last 20 years, the clubhouse has been refurbished with the original wooden section being replaced by a brick building. At Sidford, three pitches have been re-laid, training lights installed, a pavilion built, and parking space extended to provide excellent facilities, particularly for the junior teams.

 

In that time, the 1st Team have suffered relegation to the Devon league and celebrated promotion to South West One West twice. The Quins have struggled and revived to win their merit table last season. And the Colts have failed to raise a team one season and won the Devon Colts Cup in another. Our members and supporters have remained loyal. With acknowledgment to Rudyard Kipling, we have treated triumph and disaster both the same.

 

My proudest time as chairman is undoubtedly the Powergen Vase semi-final in against Sheffield Tigers in 2005. The members of the Club worked hard and successfully to make it a special event as illustrated in these words from a Sidmouth Herald report under the by-line View from the Blindside: “Thee Rugby Club had Thought of everythingand has done the town proud. Cheerful, chatty stewards, Glossy souvenir programmes, smart ball boys, pop music, a pig roast, tuck shop, bars. And even a bouncer on the (clubhouse) door. Fantastic!

 

The community supported us brilliantly both in the lead up and on the day. And, of course, the players performed superbly against powerful opposition to produce a marvellous game and come so close to winning.

 

This extract from the article by Emma Silverthorne, the Herald editor at time sums  the event up brilliantly. “After a pre-match briefing on the basics of the game, I set off  for the Blackmore Ground with a more rugby-savvy companion, desperate to understand what all the fuss was about.

 

I left hoarse from shouting and with a lump in my throat, feeling like I had just stepped off an emotional roller-coaster – what a game!

 

If, from my ignorant perspective, I could be so move by what seemed such an unfair Finish to a nerve-wracking match, I can only imagine the highs and lows that loyal Sidmouth supporters must have experienced.

 

As the minutes ticked by, I too was caught up in the emotion – surely the game was ours?

 

How could victory be stolen so quickly from Sidmouth’s grasp when it looked like a done deal? It all seemed so unjust.

I guess that’s just rugby.”

              

 

 

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