The lock down measures to combat the spread of the deadly Coronavirus has had a massive effect on life in the UK. With normality on hold to protect the NHS, save lives and safeguard the future sport has been consigned to the back burner, one of the many recreational casualties of the pandemic.

At Huddersfield RUFC the 2019/20 rugby season ended back in mid-March when the RFU drew a veil over it with five of the thirty National 2 North matches still to play. The RFU’s solution to the problem worked out well for the Huddersfield club. After an assessment of home and away form notional points were awarded leaving the team in twelfth place in the table, two places above the third bottom relegation spot they were battling to avoid. 

Since that time all sporting and commercial activities at the club have been suspended leaving the powers that be on both fronts wrestling with the problem of how best to carry on.  

An already difficult financial year, brought about in large measure by unexpected problems with the flood lighting system which set the club back £15,000, has been compounded by the virus crisis. The curtailment of the rugby season and the additional loss of function revenue at what would normally be a profitable time of year has proved very problematic. 

With full time staff furloughed under the government scheme the club is currently being run by the Honorary Management Committee working together via video conferencing.  Although the club has not been eligible for government, council and other grants the attitude in the face of adversity has remained positive. An appeal to members for financial support has realised over £20,000 and Head Coach Gaz Lewis organised a sponsored ‘Burpee Challenge’ which has been backed by his players and a few game members and raised a further £3,500 for club funds. A £10,000 interest free loan from the RFU has enabled the close season work on the pitches to go ahead in readiness for the resumption of play and an additional grant of £2,500 from the Yorkshire RFU has been used for a much needed upgrade of the showers. Club Chairman Mark Birch says, “We are looking into all the schemes on offer from the RFU and Government as well as various other options. In this period of uncertainty and lockdown it is really gratifying to see that our club culture and togetherness is bringing its own rewards and humbling to see the support and commitment from our loyal members, I can’t thank them enough for all their efforts”.

On the rugby front team activities have come to a complete halt and players have been training individually to maintain their fitness. Most of the senior squad, including captain Dickie Piper and vice captain Lewis Bradley, have already committed to the team for next season. The recent signing of ex Springbok centre Andre Snyman as the new backs coach on an unpaid basis has further boosted spirits in the camp. The 46 year old was capped 38 times for South Africa and coached Glendale Raptors in Denver, USA. He now works as Head of Rugby at Hill House School in Doncaster. 

Head Coach, Gaz Lewis is delighted to be welcoming Snyman saying that he will be a great addition to the coaching team. He commented, “The Club is going through some tough times at the moment with the COVID-19 pandemic and Andre’s arrival is a real shot in the arm for the club. His experience at the highest level is second to none and I’m sure it will rub off on all our players. I can’t wait to get started again”.

At the moment considerable uncertainty exists about the future. The club’s commercial activities remain on hold and it is continuing to abide by the government guidelines regarding social gathering. Although the RFU has finalised the league positions for the 2019/20 season they have given no indication as to how they expect things to proceed in the forthcoming one. The nation’s health remains the foremost consideration and as in most aspects of life in the UK in these unprecedented times rugby awaits the green light to move on.

Richard Sykes.

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