Tue, 13 Oct 2020
Newbury Blues chair Louise Goodall is confident the club can thrive in the future – with the help of the community.
Blues, like every other sports club in the country, saw all their revenue streams abruptly dry up when the coronavirus struck in March.
Since then, there has been no income from rugby or from their hospitality business such as weddings and parties at their Monks Lane ground.
Challenging times indeed, but Goodall believes that measures have been put in place to secure the club’s future.
Huge support from the ‘amazing’ membership has kept the club afloat, along with the Government’s furlough scheme.
Goodall, who took over as chair 18 months ago, said: “We were making progress and if last season had been able to finish then we would have broken even, which would have been a huge landmark.
“The future of the club is secure.
“Over the last year we have fundamentally changed the way we have managed the club and put lots of business protocols in place so we know where we are financially and what we have to do.
“The members have supported the club incredibly well throughout the crisis.”
The rugby club is one of the biggest sporting organisations in West Berkshire, with 600 paying members and 21 teams from senior men’s and women’s teams to the colts and mini rugby sides.
But while the numbers are great, so too is the financial outlay to keep a club of this size functioning.
With no hospitality income, Blues furloughed several members of staff and have been bringing some money in by hiring out space to mother-and-toddler and karate groups.
They also raised £5,000 from a members golf day earlier in the year.
The club has been following Rugby Football Union guidelines throughout the crisis and there is a glimmer of hope that competitive rugby could return in January.
But the likelihood is that it will be delayed even further as full-contact training is still not yet allowed and Blues are steeling themselves for the possibility that the 2020/21 campaign may be scrapped altogether.
In the meantime, Goodall believes the club is playing its part in helping players and members cope with the lockdown.
She said: “One of the main things to have come out of all this is that mental health is a big issue.
“But players have been able to get out, enjoy meeting with their friends and play some kind of sport, even if it is touch rugby.
“Numbers in training have been huge and our main priority is too ensure they are all safe and involved in the sport.
“We have had inter-club touch rugby events and we will be holding a Hallowe’en fancy dress tournament to keep events going on at the club.
“And I would love to bring walking rugby to the club, which would give the older generation a chance to keep fit in a safe place.”
She added: “We may not see rugby for the rest of the season, but by ensuring it is a safe place, I am hoping that people and the community will come along and support our events.”