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Maidenhead RFC in a good position to deliver matches safely, both on and off the field

David Mobbs-Smith believes Maidenhead RFC are fortunate with the facilities they have at Braywick Park to be able to deliver matches safely, both on and off the field, when competitive rugby finally does return.

This week the RFU released a range of scenarios for the return of league matches and, although provisional start dates were not included in the document, it has outlined three potential ways for rugby to return this season, with a full season likely to start in either September or October/November or a shortened season kicking off in January.

Mobbs-Smith has said the club will work with whatever the advice is from the RFU, however, he’s hopeful they'll be able to get back to competitive rugby in the coming months, even if that means playing in-house tag or touch rugby.

“I’m hopeful because the RFU are trying to get our world back,” said Mobbs-Smith. “Then we can get back to doing what we love. The UK is really a sports participation nation, not a sports watching nation. If you go to America they don’t have 10 divisions of American football in New York. They just don’t do sport like that.

“We’re a grassroots sporting nation. It’s what people do on their weekends. They like to watch sport but they love to play it. It’s a major part of who we are.

“Will we find alternatives to playing rugby if league matches don’t return until Christmas? Yes. If there’s no season until January because of the maul or scrum let’s say, we could play touch or tag rugby so we fit in around government guidelines. It might just be in house but at least we’d be playing.

"We have to go back to our sport. It’s part of a culture for a lot of people. It’s a way of life. It’s not just a game we play, it does have value. Everyone can be a rugby player. You can turn up to any club in the country with your boots and next weekend you could be playing for them. Hopefully this disease will go away and we can claim that back because that’s the beauty of the game.”

The head coach also believes an ‘Indian Summer’ could help clubs such as Maidenhead RFC deliver matches safely while recouping some of the revenue that’s been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s possible the clubhouse and indoor bar will remain out of bounds to spectators for many months yet, however, Mobbs-Smith says the club could work around this issue by constructing temporary bars and other facilities outside. He says Braywick Park, which has space on all four sides, is uniquely placed to cater for this, but added that off field issues are far more challenging than the on field ones.

“Everyone focuses on the game,” he said. “But it’s not just the game. It’s how do we deal with the pre and post match. People sitting and talking to each other, greeting each other in confined spaces inside clubhouses. That’s been proven by the Premier League. The players on the field can play the game but if you’re going to sit next to someone for 90 minutes that’s a completely different situation.

“Clubs rely on income and people buying beers etc. So in a way we’ll need an Indian summer so that if we do start this year a lot of stuff can be done outdoors. You could have an outdoor shed acting as a bar which the beers and food are brought to. We’re very lucky at Braywick Park because it’s a fenced in area. We have one gate in and one gate out. We can temperature check everyone coming in so we have the regulations in place from a point of view of hosting matches.

"If they say 50 people can come and watch, that’s easily manageable in our environment. People could sit in the grandstand three or four seats apart from one another and, if that’s the route back, we’re wonderfully suited to that. It will all depend on government regulations but, by October, the pubs might have been open for three months.

"If we don’t have a health scare for the nation after that I can’t see why activities in sports clubs can’t return because we’re no different from that if you know what I mean. We couldn’t reopen the rugby club tomorrow but things might look very different by September or October.”

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