One of the strangest years in the club’s history took place without a game being played or a rugby ball kicked or passed by any players. The Covid lockdown of 2020 extended well in to 2021 and its legacy remains with us to this day. The clubhouse has been closed for much of the past year along with everything else: no bar, no catering, no training, no juniors, no sponsors, no club members.
Despite all this much has been happening behind the scenes and those involved in club management and governance have been able to meet by Zoom link on regular basis. Work on the grounds and by volunteer maintenance crews has begun once more as restrictions gradually eased and the full vaccination process moved into top gear. From an empty, desolate clubhouse during the winter I’m delighted to say that we now have players back in full training, memberships going out once more, bars being stocked, caterers being organised, fixture lists prepared and the grounds staff with energetic activity. Sponsors are being sought, travel arrangements are being made for a challenging season in the national league and many significant investments have been made for the club.
The clubhouse itself is currently undergoing a full refurbishment which we hope will soon be open for all to see in the new season. Pitches have been re-laid and are looking superb. A line marking machine nicknamed the Barum Beast has been bought and is already marking pitches and being hired to out other local clubs. Extensive landscaping work has been completed and new floodlights installed for winter training. Work continues apace with Bridgefield development and we are close to securing a long-term lease for this area.
Much of the funding for these projects has come from local and national grants which were designed to help clubs through the Covid crisis. Other funding has come from government Bounceback Loans which has enabled us to make new investment in resources for the grounds. Despite having no bar, sponsorship or membership income for 12 months the club is in a healthy financial place and special thanks are due to new treasurers Benn Coley and Hannah Hole for overseeing all expenditure and income.
Several new and younger committee members have made a very positive contribution to the club during the closure and brought new ideas and vigour to the established committee.
As always, the work of the many dozens of volunteers for the club cannot go unmentioned. Ground staff have toiled tirelessly to prepare the pitches and landscape the environment for the club. We are immensely proud to see the high quality of the pitches and whole club area from both the downstream bridge and the clubhouse itself.
Much of the work installing new lights, preparing the clubhouse, managing the developments and creating community links with sponsors all comes from thousands of volunteer hours which are put into the club each week. On top of this we have dozens of parents acting as coaches for the juniors and supporting the many youngsters in the North Devon community who enjoy playing here.
Barnstaple RFC are now ready for the new season with a series of friendlies planned as warm ups. The thirds/veterans had a run out last week against a visiting team from Wasps and second team fixtures will soon be announced. The first team have a tough but exciting season ahead to look forward to including a trip to Guernsey in the Channel Islands, a first ever for this club.
Sadly, we have to report the resignation of our former chair Ian Stanton owing to illness. The club have formally thanked Ian for all his tremendous efforts for Barnstaple RFC over the past few years. We all send our sincere wishes for his recovery and hope to see him back at the club in the future. Trevor Edwards, our current President, is kindly stepping in as chair for the time being.
On a brighter note we have much to look forward to in the near future with the club now having expanded to a level that has never before been attained: Hundreds of members, many local sponsors, grounds and pitches extending from the new bridge to the football club, new tractor, a GPS ground marking machine, LED floodlights, and several resources beyond our wildest dreams. We have hundreds of juniors training and playing weekly, National league status for the 1st team and a financial turnover which dwarfs that of just a few years ago. To this can be added a clubhouse with significant hiring potential and offering facilities for which we can all be very proud.