THATCHAM Rugby Club has celebrated the official opening of its new home after three years of fundraising.
Following a surge in membership, which meant that they could no longer share with Newbury and Thatcham Hockey Club at the Henwick Worthy sports ground, the club decided the only option was to build a clubhouse of its own.
Three years later, and the club officially opened its own clubhouse, bar, kitchen and toilets at a packed ceremony and ribbon-cutting by the president of the RFU on Saturday.
Speaking at the opening, club chairman Will Sewell said that the club finally had a home after years of hard work and fundraising.
“Its a very proud moment, not just for me but for the club, who I treat as a family,” he said.
Funding for the £400,000 project has come from various grants, including Sport England, the Rugby Football Union and the Greenham Common Trust.
Club members and supporters chipped in more than £75,000 through sales of a naked calender and a buy-a-brick-scheme.
Club president Bob Moore thanked everyone who had donated; and other clubs in Berkshire for their encouragement and support.
“We did it,” he said, followed by a round of applause from members and supporters. “I’m still pinching myself in disbelief.”
The clubhouse was built by Newbury-based contractor Calco Construction and Mr Moore said he was delighted that a local company had carried out the job.
“We have come a hell of a long way. We are pleased with it and we hope you are too.”
Thatcham RFC fields three adult teams and has a growing touch rugby and youth section.
Saying that the youth section was the most important element for any club, club secretary Mark Littlechild expressed his pride in that more than half of the first team had come through the ranks.
“That’s one heck of an achievement… 12 years ago we nearly folded and we are now putting out three teams.”
Mr Littlechild said that the clubhouse was not just for the club but for the wider community.
“We want to support other groups, charities and other sports groups. Come here and support us and we will support you and we will all survive.”
Work on the clubhouse began on the day of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which saw England fail to progress from the group stage.
Despite this, RFU president Peter Baines said that rugby was in a pretty good place and that there had been a feel-good factor of the national team’s success – after the world cup.
“It’s a real privilege to go around the country and see the enthusiasm in clubs and building that’s going on,” he said.
“For you, as a village team, to get three teams out is brilliant,” before wishing Thatcham good luck in their weekend fixtures.
And there was one final presentation when the Mayor of Thatcham, Ellen Crumly, presented Mr Morgan, Mr Sewell and club treasurer Russell Downing with community partnership badges for their “tireless fundraising and support” and for “giving their time to making a dream a reality.”