Farnham Rugby Club goes from strength to strength

Farnham Rugby Club recently told Rugby Blindside about their new club facilities that were built by the community for the community.

At the outset of the 2021/22 season Farnham Rugby Club will open a purpose-built conditioning and rehab facility to its members. The facility features weights stations, rowing machines and exercise bikes plus loads of other gear including pushing sleds and battle ropes for use on the Astro surface that fronts the building. It will be staffed by a professional fitness coach and its use will be free to senior and junior squads for official training sessions and to players requiring rehab after injury. Members wishing to access the facility for their own personal use will pay a small uplift to their membership fee.

Over 1000 people play rugby at Farnham RFC every week. The club has a massive Mini & Junior section; a huge Academy for those transitioning from Junior rugby to Senior rugby; a thriving O2 Touch section; a rapidly growing and very successful Women’s section; and regularly fields 5 senior men’s teams with the 1st XV playing in London 1 South.

The new facility meets the club’s charter to provide the best possible rugby experience for its members and will be an important factor in the recruitment and retention of players across all sections of the club.

That the facility has been christened “the Shed” speaks volumes about its genesis. It was never meant to be. It just happened!

In 2012, the club moved from its squalid and inadequate clubhouse and grounds to its current first-class facilities, on Wilkinson Way (named in honour the clubs greatest product Jonny Wilkinson).

It was anticipated there would be an increase in membership as a result, but no-one anticipated the scale of that increase. Before long, one of the eight new changing rooms was crammed with all manner of training and playing paraphernalia.

For a few seasons, this did not matter. Even on busy Sundays with multiple junior games, there was rarely a time when Changing Rooms 7 & 8 were called for. However, the scrum machines languished outside all year round and although the Club Management Committee regularly discussed building a storage shed, it was never a priority given the other calls on the club’s cash.

The pressure for those changing rooms reached new levels in the 2017/18 season when the club seized upon the growing interest in women’s rugby. Driven by Abigail Jackson and Olly Cruickshank, the women and girls section exploded into life.

The original clubhouse design designated changing rooms 7 & 8 for female use. The Women’s XV, dubbed The Falcons, were arranging regular fixtures and, unsurprisingly, wanted their changing rooms!

A storage shed was now a priority. Initial research into planning permission uncovered the requirement for the building to be substantial and architecturally in keeping with the clubhouse and neighbouring David Lloyd Club.

Drawings were commissioned and quotations sought for a building that would meet planning approval. The best price from a third party came in at around a quarter of a million pounds!

The shed was once more on the back burner. But the need for the changing rooms did not go away and so the Committee got to thinking, “What if we turned to the membership of the club for the skills and the labour to build the shed? What if we made it more than a place to store tackle-bags and scrum machines? How can we get the place to pay for itself?”

A “Shed” team was convened under the leadership of John Wickens (chair of the Commercial Committee). The physical build was orchestrated by Jim O’Sullivan (Development Sec) who had represented the club during the original development of the site at Wilkinson Way.

Jonny Adams (Vets Captain) built it aided and abetted by other skilled tradesmen from the club and working parties from senior and junior sides, male and female. The fitting out of the gym and its operational aspects was the remit of Steve Baird (Academy coach).

Toby Comley (Club Captain) supplied the outside paving slabs from his eponymous reclaim business. People can watch TV as they push weights thanks to Rupert Mitchell (Vet) who supplied and rigged gear that was surplus to his AV business. Steve Ratcliffe (IT Sec) made sure of good WiFi connectivity.

KBO Security supplied the fire and security measures including sophisticated automated access at cost in a contra deal to club sponsorship. Meg Parks (fully qualified fitness instructor, club SAC coach and Falcon player) will lead day-to-day operations at the gym.

And at the back of the gym is the required storage capacity so changing Rooms 7 & 8 are back in business.

This club effort built and equipped the Shed for substantially less than the cost quoted by a third party and will be an asset to the club for many years to come.

A great story of what team effort can do, made ever more remarkable by the fact it has been achieved during the Covid19 Pandemic.

This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Rugby Blindside magazine – Read the full issue here