- Stalwart George Leach handles big switch-on
- Recruits to Old Otliensians attracted by new floodlights
Photo: RFU Archive
George Leach, a member of the Old Otliensians club in West Yorkshire for over 60 years and President since 2008, marked a milestone in the history of the Wharfedale club when he formally switched on the new £61,000 floodlights at Chaffers Field.
Mr Leach, who joined the club in 1949 as a player after serving in the navy, played until the late 1950s, during which time he had spells as Club Secretary. His job as a bank manager took him away to Cleckheaton for a few years, but he returned and became Chairman for many years when the club moved away from Prince Henry's Grammar School and purchased their own ground in 1966.
A long-standing committeeman, he has been engaged in a wide variety of roles for the club and currently organises the weekly rota for people running touch and accompanying away teams.
His service to the club over 60 years has been immense and his credentials ensured he was well-qualified to press the all-important button at the switch on.
Treasurer Gordon Longfellow was project manager for the floodlights scheme and his partnership with Ted Mitchell, the RFU’s Funding & Facilities Manager for the North, has been a crucial element in bringing the project to a successful conclusion.
The £61,000 project was installed on the club’s second-team pitch and has been in use for a number of weeks, with training numbers showing a significant increase.
The involvement of the RFU was critical to the success of the scheme, not simply due the £44,000 grant they have contributed, but also in the provision of important technical guidance. Their experts recommended the installation of a new power supply, which virtually doubled the cost of the project, but having upgraded and extended the costs involved, they also increased their financial support.
The balance of the funding came from Otley Town Council, Leeds City Council, local business donations and club fund-raising events.
John Harrison, Club Press Officer and committeeman, said: “We are hugely indebted to the RFU for the contribution they made to the scheme, not simply in supporting the scheme, but in ensuring that we were able to do the job properly.
“Numbers at training have boomed, basically because the new lights have made such a huge difference. Previously we were dependent on illumination from halogen bulbs hung from old lamp posts which only lit up a small area. The new lights are bright enough to stage a game.”
Ted Mitchell added: "Although facility improvements and the funding that goes with them often grab the headlines, the true return on investment for the RFU is the increase in playing and training numbers that the club are already enjoying."