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Better Facilities award 2008/09

Winner: Keswick RFC (Cumbria RFU)

Keswick Rugby Club in the Heart of the Lake District arguably has the most scenic ground in the country being surrounded by the high lakeland fells. However, the view comes at a price as ‘Lake District’ is probably a good way to describe the club's pitches several times a year. The Clubhouse itself is protected by the town's flood defence wall, but in 2005 the flood waters breached the defences and the clubhouse disappeared under several feet of contaminated water, with the storm force winds ripping off large areas of the roof.

For 18 months, the club worked on an ambitious £750,000 scheme to build a new elevated clubhouse that would be floodproof, but were ultimately frustrated when a key developer withdrew and Sport England funding was lost.

After two seasons of having no clubhouse and feeding youth players in the car park, there was little choice but to set about a plan to try and recover the old clubhouse. Leading the way were three past players encased in biological suits who undertook the initial pressure cleaning and spraying with antibacterial spray of every surface in the club. This was followed by a team of over 70 volunteers who cleared the clubhouse of debris, took down fallen ceiling and stripped the plaster from the walls. Work then turned to rebuilding and decorating with Dads and Mums wielding hammers and paint brushes whilst their children played rugby outside. The clubhouse and kitchen were finally brought back into use.

However two weeks after re-opening, a new flood put six inches of water back in the clubhouse. Stage 2 of the club’s plan saw them having to flood proof the clubhouse; so during the summer, the floor was taken up and many tonnes of material was moved to create a solid floor. A new pumped drainage system was installed outside the clubhouse to pump away any water build up.

During the inevitable leaning on shovels and end of work beers, ideas started to come forward on how it would be nice to have a patio with picnic tables for the members and their families in the summer. 3,000 pavers latter the new flood proof clubhouse with a new extensive patio was opened. All the work has been undertaken entirely by club volunteers.

Regrettably the two squash courts at the club proved to be beyond repair. However they have now been transformed with one court now equipped as a gym and the second converted to house all the kit and equipment allowing the club to create an extra changing room in the main clubhouse.

The club now plans to work with the RFU to improve the pitches and this summer are planning to install a new drainage system, undertake major remedial work on the pitches and install floodlights. The club’s  objective being to double the amount of rugby they offer to their two senior and 13 youth teams.

Runner up: Ellingham & Ringwood RFC (Hampshire RFU)

The work from all at Ellingham and Ringwood RFC has seen the club flourish in the past few years.  Their 1st XV has been promoted three times and now compete in the London leagues. They have also established a 2nd XV; currently top of Dorset Division 3 and are close to running a 3rd XV. They also run a women’s team, who won the National Plate a few seasons ago, hold the Rugby Football Union’s Seal of Approval and are considered a model of a good community club. All this from a club that played for many years out of a single pitch and old wooden pavilion in the New Forest, and were (perhaps unfairly) considered to be the worst rugby club in Hampshire!

The main achievement of the work put in by the committee is the completion of an eight year project, to relocate the club to the centre of Ringwood with facilities that meet 21st Century standards for a growing club like Ellingham and Ringwood. This has culminated in the successful fund raising via club members, the RFU, Sport England, the Rugby Football Foundation, Ringwood Brewery, Ringwood Town Council and New Forest District Council. The recently completed £850k project, has been the construction of a sports pavilion, two rugby pitches, artificial cricket wicket, 300m grass athletics track, four 18m training floodlighting columns and pavilion that includes four changing rooms, officials changing room, first aid room, kitchen, storage space and clubroom.

As a result of this redevelopment, the club plan to utilise their new facility by achieving a number of self-set targets, including increasing their Mini and Youth section by over 50, almost doubling their adult male participation, develop a volunteer recruitment plan that would see a five-fold increase in volunteers, develop a coach and referee recruitment plan and look to increase qualified coaches and referees by 150% and 200% respectively. The club also plan to build on the Tag rugby sessions and Tag Pub League that the club run which will see 20 regular tag players and 120 in the pub league.

In addition, the new facilities will ensure increased school usage with 370 pupils using it twice a week for two hours, 160 pupils participating in after school clubs, 30 students from local sixth form college, cricket usage and athletics usage over the next 5 years.

Runner Up: Hull RUFC (Yorkshire RFU)

Having played at Haworth Park, where the club have had a lease, since 1992, it was made clear that the owners of the ground were looking at alternative uses and were therefore unwilling to grant the club a new extended lease in order for the club to continue and grow. It was a very worrying time for the club as the current facilities were very tired and the Mini and Junior section of the club was diminishing rapidly.

The Committee were looking for several years for an alternative venue and eventually found the ideal place to call home. After several years of negotiations, the club was granted a 50 year licence at the Young People's Institute sports ground on Chanterlands Avenue in the city. The Hull Young People's Institute was founded in 1865 and is a registered charity whose aim is to provide facilities for use by inhabitants of the City of Hull and surrounding neighbourhood, with particular emphasis on young people.

The facilities consisted of some very tired and run down buildings, some tennis courts that were in poor order, a bowling green, cricket square and two football pitches. As the place was in need of a new lease of life, the club were free to join the other clubs down there and the future of Rugby Union in Hull was now secure. However, there was much work to be done in the space of a year to enable the club to move. For starters there was no 1st XV pitch, so the first job was to raise the funds to construct a new state of the art playing surface to be completed in time for the start of the 2008/09 season.

Work also had to be carried out on the clubhouse building, including work to the existing changing rooms, new showers, female toilets, disabled toilets and bar areas. All of the above was done by raising funds and by the generosity of some of the clubs members. The club has not received any grant money for any work to date but are delighted to announce that following their successful move, the club has never been in a better position. The club now have a rapidly expanding Mini and Junior set up, as well as a good Senior set up that is becoming more sustainable.

Due to their success, further work and improvements are needed and the club are now in the process of applying for various grants that are available so that they can offer people of all ages the opportunity to improve and develop further. As with all these things, much progress has being made but there is still a lot of hard work ahead!


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