07:00PM, Friday 20 August 2021
With the start of the new grassroots season just around the corner, Maidenhead RFC director of rugby Myke Parrott anticipates there will be ‘chaos to come’ for many community clubs, chiefly brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rugby, at all levels, was brought to a shuddering halt by the virus last year and over the past 18 months, teams have had to endure being at various stages of the return-to-rugby roadmap and playing fixtures behind closed doors.
As a result, the restrictions have generated a lot of uncertainty and
instability at grassroots level with clubs up and down the land now coming to terms with diminished finances and budgets ahead of a new competitive campaign.
Last week, Old Elthamians withdrew from National League One, the third tier of English club rugby, due to financial difficulties and Maids’ Parrott doesn’t believe they will be the solitary outfit destined for this outcome.
“I fear very much for our sport,” admitted the director of rugby.
“Clubs rely on bar takings, spectators at their games, match day income – and we’ve had none of that.
“Old Elthamians effectively went bust last week and have had to drop out of the league system.
“Fortunately, our club is financially sound and a lot of other clubs that are sensible with their money, will be absolutely fine. But I think a lot of the outfits in National One and National Two, that spend a lot of money on player payments and have had no revenue from gate receipts, will struggle.
“I’m hearing rumours that some more may have to withdraw from their leagues or make everyone totally amateur. Some clubs will seriously have to change their models to survive.
“Some which spend beyond their means are going to have to change their behaviours.
“We’re very fortunate that we run a tight ship, and we will be fine, but others won’t be so lucky. There’s chaos to come across the game unfortunately, and it’s very sad to see.”
While Maidenhead may not be under any immediate financial jeopardy, the club has had to contend with a handful of players leaving the game through apathy or personal commitments.
“We have indeed lost some lads,” said Parrott.
“Some boys might have been in the twilights of their careers when COVID hit 18 months ago. They’re now 36, knocking on 37, with a child or enjoying other commitments.
“It’s going to be tough to get lads away from other things they might’ve started during lockdown and it was a massive fear of ours.
“I think rugby clubs up and down the country, from what I hear, are all struggling for numbers. Especially in your niche positions, teams are really going to struggle to field competitive second and third XV’s if I’m honest.
“We certainly don’t have as many options as we would like and it’s a very unfortunate consequence of all of this.
“Men’s rugby is indefinitely going to be significantly down on numbers in the coming season.
“The last year or so has been utterly unsustainable for rugby and I just pray we’re not plunged into another lockdown.”
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