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Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club confident of overcoming RFU pushback

Despite facing a further £30-50,000 black hole in their finances with no league rugby now until at least January, Bury St Edmunds chairman David Reid is confident they will come out of the other side.

Last Friday brought the news that the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions had led the RFU to push back plans to restart competitive rugby – with the exception of the Premiership, the Championship and the Premier 15s – until ‘at least January 2021’.

For the county’s only semi-professional outfit, fourth tier Bury St Edmunds, it certainly has big financial implications.

Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club chairman David Reid.
Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club chairman David Reid.

The coronavirus lockdown had already led to an online appeal to members and the public to help fill an estimated £50,000 black hole as a result of their 2019/20 campaign being halted early and their facilities being shut down. Their annual international 7s event eventually fell victim to the virus as well, despite several new dates being announced.

Financial modelling from the Haberden-based club’s executive team is forecasting they are now in line for another £30-50,000 shortfall on top of that, with half of their pre-match lunches being cancelled, as well as their annual fireworks display now reluctantly lost for 2020.

But chairman David Reid remains upbeat about their future prospects, believing the ‘great people’ in and around the club, including their loyal sponsors, will help them to find a way to negotiate their way through it.

Key to his confidence is having got all the senior, youth and minis teams back training with Covid-19 secure RFU measures in place while the gym and 3G pitch bookings have likewise resumed along with the NHS re-starting their park and ride.

“I can confidently say it is not the end of the world,” he said.

“The signs are that if we can get the full membership subscription – and with the activity we have resumed there is no reason people shouldn’t renew – and a reasonable amount of sponsorship we should mitigate that hole.”

First XV player contracts, after bringing in some high profile former professionals over the summer such as Tom Varndell and Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, are also not the concern they may appear to be.

“We are fortunate enough to have a very shrewd Pro-am chairman in Terry Sands,” explained Reid.

“He has protected us from this as all the players are pretty much uniquely and exclusively all on a pay-per-play arrangement.

“Nick Wakley (head coach and director of rugby) is contracted but he has been very, very supportive.”

Reid also confirmed the club are looking to set up some internal touch rugby and Ready4Rugby – the RFU’s Covid secure adapted game – leagues to get some competitive action back quicker.

Bury’s fixture list for 2020/21 National League 2 South campaign had been due to get under way on September 5.

But their best hope now is a half season beginning in January with the real prospect it might come with no promotion or relegation. No season at all has now also been raised as a possibility by the RFU.

“If there is not looking like any promotion or relegation for the remaining 15 fixtures the Pro-am management will probably use those fixtures to prepare for the upcoming season and make sure we really have our ducks lined up,” said Reid.

On its Return to Rugby roadmap, the governing body remains at Stage D, which allows adapted contact training and non-contact fixtures. Stage E would allow adapted contact fixtures to take place, but it is not until Stage F is reached that normal match play would be permitted.

Reid said the club are also thankful to Italian Servest for their help as the main club sponsor.