How does Brightlingsea survive?
20 September 2009
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I had a good day at Brightlingsea with a superb buffet lunch in the company of the Mayor and Deputy and Brian Williams, last season’s RFU President. On a warm day the home side overwhelmed Witham 62-0 before we drove back to the British Legion for even more food.
Although I have been there many times in the past I wonder how they survive as a rugby club. Until recently players got changed at the local school and walked half a mile to the schools’ playing fields, although there is now a small changing facility at the field that makes things a bit easier. After the game it is a couple of miles or so into the town to the British Legion for food and socialising. It would be interesting to know how many opposition players turn left and go back home along the only road out of the town rather than join the home team at the bar.
The players are almost without exception local and play because they enjoy the game. Some of them undoubtedly could play at a higher level but they stick with their local club because they like playing with their mates. On Saturday the club fielded two sides at home and even had the luxury of a reserve for the second team despite a number of unavailabilities and injuries.
Brightlingsea is a small town better known for its part in live animal exports in the nineties. The club gets no income from the bar, although the British Legion is grateful for the club’s presence which has managed to keep it solvent, The club’s only income is from membership and match fees, post match raffles, occasional fund-raising events and a few loyal sponsors.
The club keeps going thanks to a group of friendly, hard working and dedicated volunteers and a surprisingly high number of Vice-Presidents. They have started a youth section using their links with the local school although they will need to achieve Seal of Approval which may prove to be a task too far.
In today’s professional era clubs like Brightlingsea seem to me more and more of an anomaly, but it goes to prove that with the right attitude grass roots clubs will survive as long as county bodies and the RFU continues to recognise and support them.
I will be interested to hear any comments.
(Originally posted on Facebook)
Simon Lord In many ways I am envious of clubs like Brightlingsea in terms of everyone mucking in both on and off the pitch. I do fear they are a dying breed of club sadly. Yes my club has now superb facilities and hundreds of members but that does not mean we are necessarily any better than the guys down by the sea.
- Martin Pratley
It is very much up to other clubs to “pitch in” in whatever way possible to help the Brightlingseas of this world develop and survive.
My main interest is with youth rugby. Clubs that are able to develop strong youth sections are investing f…or the future. Locally Brightlingsea, Harwich, Mistley and Clacton are embarking on this and should be assisted wherever possible e.g by combining youth squads in order to ensure that their players get games when otherwise they may not be able to.
For example, “My Lot” , Colchester U14 development, have had several fixtures with Clacton when we have lent Clacton players and they have done the same for us. This gets 30+ kids playing rugby and has been beneficial to both clubs.
Some of those kids will go on to be the players that take clubs forward.