Telford Hornets RUFC lay claim to ‘best pitch in the county’ thanks to NatWest RugbyForce

Oliver Pickupin Rugby

Telford Hornets RFC were sinking - literally - before approaching NatWest RugbyForce in 2014. The dire state of the Shropshire club's often-waterlogged main pitch meant the cancellation of many home fixtures and crucial revenue lost.

Head groundsman Roger Bates appealed for assistance and finances, having heard about NatWest RugbyForce through the Rugby Football Union. "It could be seen that we were trying to improve things but needed that extra drive that only money can give," he says.

"In 2015 NatWest RugbyForce handed us a grant of £2,000 for better drainage of pitches, and that was invaluable. The year before, with a smaller grant, we were able to buy new sinks, lavatories and lights for the ladies' toilet."

The RFU's head groundsman, Keith Kent, visited Telford Hornets RFU with his spade in 2016 and gave Mr Bates his advice and support. He suggested a programme of work, and volunteers put the plans in action during the NatWest RugbyForce weekend.

"We used both club volunteers and local businesses to install the new drainage and repair damaged drains," he continues. "About 30 of us worked on the pitch, replaced pipes and put in drains on the pitch. The weekend enabled the club to carry out improvements they we would not have been able to do otherwise.

Bail out: RFU head groundsman, Keith Kent inspects the damage at Telford Hornets RUFC

"It demonstrated what we could achieve with a small amount of money, and gave us access to information from knowledgeable sources. We have now probably the best first-team pitch in the county."

Telford Hornets RFU's outlook is now rather more sunny - on and off the pitches. "The NatWest RugbyForce work has attracted more players, and our performance has improved. The 1st XV has gained promotion twice in the past five years, and another rise, from Midlands 3 West (North), is looking possible this season.

"It is my intention that players and spectators alike will enjoy their experience at the club more, whether training or playing or just spectating. We are continuing to improve three adjoining pitches, and recently have been able to add girls' teams at under-13, 15 and 18 level.

"We are the only club in the North Midlands to cover these ages. It is an example of how we are very welcoming to all, and a community-minded club."

Community asset: the club regularly hosts events and tournaments for local schools

Indeed, Telford Hornets RFU work with schools throughout the town, by sending in coaches to help with rugby training. The club organises competitions for those schools, and every year it hosts an annual open junior tournament attended by 1,200 children.

It also has links with both a junior and senior disabled team, and two years ago hosted a tournament for children with disabilities from all over Europe.

Mr Bates adds: "These days it's hard to keep participation numbers high. You must adapt with the times. Do not wait for people to come to you; go to them, ask them what they want. When they come to the club for the first time make them welcome.

"A big part of that is ensuring your facilities are kept up to date, and our work through NatWest RugbyForce has helped immeasurably on that front. No doubt we will use this year's NatWest RugbyForce weekend, on 23 and 24 June, to improve our club more."

You can read the original article from The Telegraph HERE

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