30 Nov '20

Bideford RFC in good shape to emerge from Covid crisis as sport’s hiatus continue

Bideford v St Austell in Western Counties West in March. Picture: Kevin Crowl
Bideford v St Austell in Western Counties West in March. Picture: Kevin Crowl

Bideford RFC chairman John Cox is confident the club will weather the latest Covid crisis and emerge as vibrant as ever on the other side of it.

Bideford's Chris Snell passes the ball out against Penryn back in February. Picture: Kevin Crowl

Bideford’s Chris Snell passes the ball out against Penryn back in February. Picture: Kevin Crowl

Bideford have been forced to close down their clubhouse and suspend all training for adults, ladies and youth players for the duration of the latest lockdown.

For a club that runs three adults sides, a colts team, four ladies teams and youth squads at every age group from primary age upwards, that’s a lot of idle rugby players.

There won’t be any formal league rugby in England when the lockdown is lifted, although small-scale local competitions are believed to be in the planning stage.

Cox said the Covid closures have been tough on the club’s revenue streams, but overall there is enough in the bank to ride out this latest storm, which began last week when Lockdown 2.0 started.

“The club has more than 800 members – 375 of them are young ‘uns – and as everyone is paying their membership fees we are stable on the financial front,” said Cox.

“We own our own ground, which means no rent to pay, and although there are ongoing bills we don’t have any problems.”

Unlike some other clubs of a similar size in Devon there is not a large weekly wage bill at Bideford RFC. Part-time bar staff have been placed on furlough.

Cox said Bideford had to cancel a number of planned events that would have put cash in the bank, such as the annual youth festival at the end of the season.

“We host the South West Festival in May, which attracts around 5,000 kids, and that had to be cancelled,” said Cox.

“Our clubhouse was open for televised internationals and Chiefs games, but as a community club that tries to offer everything to anybody the Covid restrictions have cost us money.”

It is not just revenue streams that have dried up: so have eagerly awaited opportunities to play in special games.

“Something else that was knocked on the head was a tour to France to play our twin town Landivisiau,” said Cox.

“Hopefully we can rearrange that for next year.”

It is a sign of how healthy the club is financially that plans to erect additional training lights on the Victoria Park playing area next to Bideford’s KGV ground are going ahead.

“There will be six lights on the pitch when the work is done – and a big shed to keep our equipment in,” said Cox.

Clubs in South Devon have been talking among themselves about starting a mini-Merit Table competition once rugby gets the go ahead to restart – and the RFU have has floated a six-team local league scheme too.

Cox said he can’t wait for the day Bideford teams run out on the park again, but is cautious about the possible format for fixtures.

“However much we all want to see rugby played again, the most important thing is the safety of our members,” said Cox.

“There will be a most hearty welcome at Bideford when we resume playing, hopefully in the not-to-distant future.

“What we would not want to do is travel long distances into areas where the Covid figures are far higher than the ones we have in North Devon, which are very low.”

Cox said what he does want to see are youngsters being allowed to play in games as soon as possible, just as their soccer-playing cousins were allowed to do before the latest shutdown.

“Youngsters are the life blood of any club and it was so frustrating to see soccer being played before the latest lockdown but not rugby,” said Cox.

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