- Caldy defeated in extra time at Athletic Ground
- Hill hails strength of club from top to bottom
Richmond FC are celebrating a return to National League One next season after a number of years climbing their way back up the leagues. The Athletic Ground club’s 20-13 win over visiting Caldy in Saturday’s (May 5) SSE National League Two South v North play off returns them to the ranks of the top 40 clubs in England.
Steve Hill, Richmond’s Director of Rugby, said the achievement that was sealed in extra time after the teams were level 13-13 at 80 minutes reflected credit on the whole club.
"Everybody pulled together to get us to where we are now, and I’m very confident that we’ll continue to enjoy success throughout our various teams and sections," said Hill.
"It’s been a pretty memorable season, for sure. While the guys who played today secured the win, this could not have been achieved without the season-long support of the rest of the squad, coaches, managers, medics and committee members.
"Richmond back at Level 3 will make a lot of people both within and outside the club very happy."
Peter Moore, Richmond Chairman said: "It is a wonderful achievement to be back to where we were some years back and reflects great credit on everyone here.
“I thank and congratulate all those who made this possible – the players in our many teams, our coaches, our sponsors, our members and supporters and all those who have wished us well, some of whom are sadly no longer here to celebrate with us.
“It has taken longer than we had initially hoped but we’re there, and we’re looking forward to playing some of our traditional fixtures of years gone by in the new league.”
Formed in 1861, a founder member of both the RFU and the FA, Richmond played the first ever match at Twickenham and became one of the first clubs of the professional era in 1996, having fielded 110 internationals over the years.
In 1999, following the withdrawal of the main backer and losses in excess of £5 million the club went into administration and was penalised by expulsion from the leagues.
The drop was precipitate and painful to Richmond and left the club devastated both on and off the field. But “cometh the hour” a small group of members raised and contributed the money to pick up the pieces and to begin again almost from scratch.
Over a seven-year period Richmond crashed from the glamour of world famous playing staff and national media coverage to whip-rounds to pay for the team bus, but then a record 83 consecutive wins propelled them up the leagues.
It was a lesson well learnt and one which colours the club’s thinking and approach to the present day.
Nowadays Richmond aims to be, in business terms, a model of best practice and Paul Vaughan, until recently Commercial Director of the RFU, has hailed it as a way forward for a community based club.
There are 20 sides turning out regularly and though the promotion spotlight this week is on the first XV men, the Richmond Women are comfortably ahead in several measures and are recognisably right at the top of their game with internationals fielded all over the pitch. They have just retained the Premiership title for the third consecutive season.
The Minis and Youth, under their banner of ‘Participation and Retention’ muster over 600 strong and every Sunday morning sees the Athletic Ground a froth of closely organised and boisterous young rugby.
When asked where the club goes from here, Hill responded: “We’ll go to wherever our rugby takes us – we want to be best in class, and that applies to all our teams.
“They’ll be encouraged to get as far as they can possibly go – men, women and juniors. From the youngest beginner to the grizzled old Heavy there’s a place at Richmond for those who love the game and want to play primarily for the simple pleasure of playing and who want it to be fun.”