- Dorking, Sutton & Epsom, Camberley and Old Reigatians host festivals
- Surge in interest is particularly strong at development level
The amazing success story of mini rugby in Surrey continues over the next two weekends with four festivals attracting 5700 young players from 42 clubs around the county.
With organisers, coaches, referees, parents and supporters included that makes 10,000 players and volunteers participating in and providing rugby for the under 7 to uner 12 age groups.
There will be 1200 players each at the ‘B’ festival at Sutton & Epsom RFC and Camberley RFC on Sunday March 27.
And a week later another 2200 players will descend on Dorking RFC for the Surrey championship ‘A’ festival on Sunday April 3, the same day that a further 1500 join a ‘development’ festival at Old Reigatians RFC.
Steve Tomlinson, Surrey Rugby’s Chair of Mini Festivals, admits it is a huge organisational feat to put the events on each year, but the time and effort is more than rewarded by the fun and enjoyment to be had.
"Rugby has become a much more popular sport in recent years, and we have seen a huge increase in numbers in mini rugby," said Tomlinson.
"A lot of hard work has been done by our clubs in Surrey to cater for and harness this interest in their local communities and schools. There are shields on offer as winners’ prizes at these festivals but it is all about the players’ enjoyment and all the clubs having a really good day, hopefully in the spring sunshine.
"We send big congratulations to all the 42 clubs in Surrey who have mini sections and we appreciate all the effort put in by volunteers, from anyone who ever sweeps a changing room or cooks a bacon sandwich to coaching or refereeing.
"The development festival in particular has really grown in the last two years – the players can have a real party and it is their day to be well looked after. And we do not intend to rest on our laurels, as preparations for next year’s festivals will start almost as soon as these ones are over."
The RFU’s Surrey rugby developments officers Martin MacTaggart and Matt Kemp will lead their team of community rugby coaches at the festivals to promote rugby alongside the volunteers of all the clubs and the Surrey Rugby constituent body.
There are 20 clubs in Surrey who have been awarded the RFU’s coveted Mini & Youth Seal of Approval to recognise quality provision of rugby for young people.