Charlie Farrell, Club & Community Development Officer at Ulster Rugby, shines a light on the support available to clubs across the province through Ulster Rugby in its role as a governing body by showcasing recent engagement with Randalstown RFC.
It is important at this time to look at what support Ulster Rugby has been providing to local clubs across the province. Through this case study, I will highlight the great work recently carried out by Randalstown RFC to build their own club – as well as show how Ulster Rugby staff, across different teams, are able to support the work of club volunteers through the Department of Communities programme, Sport: A Home for Lifelong Volunteering.
Randalstown Rugby Football Club (RRFC) celebrated its 70-year anniversary in 2017 – with the club having been founded in 1947. Mini Rugby was established in 1998, and whilst small in numbers during these early years, it continued to grow. As the mini players got older a need for Youth Rugby was created, which was founded in 2001.
In the bumper times, Randalstown fielded up to five senior teams on a Saturday afternoon. After a recent period when the club only had a 1st and 2nd XV at senior level, a well-structured youth section and concentrated efforts by the management committee has seen fortunes somewhat revived and the club now fields three senior men’s teams and a range of youth teams, as well as teams at all levels of mini rugby. At present, the 1st XV senior men’s team compete in Championship Division 2. There are approximately 70 senior men’s players.
Across the mini and youth sections, there are approximately 160 players representing all age groups. Their teams play numerous tournaments and matches, home and away, to teams across the province of Ulster. In 2015, the Youth section branched out and started a youth girls and senior women’s section. The senior women’s 1st XV are playing within the Deloitte Ulster Women’s Championship League, which allows the team to gain experience and grow – with the squad size at approximately 25 players.
Success has been achieved by their teams in winning both League and Cup competitions at various levels. These growing achievements have culminated with players representing both Ulster and Ireland for Youth Rugby. Many players have also progressed to playing for the club’s senior teams. This form of continuity is seen as a core value within the club, which will lead to many more years of success.
Identified key challenges for the club:
Coaching, Volunteering & Player Retention
- Ensuring there are enough coaches and volunteers to cater for rugby provision across the club, as well as succession planning and ensuring there are sufficient volunteers to support the future growth and development of the club.
- Regarding volunteers, there is a core group within the club often doing multiple roles. There is a defined need to increase the overall pool of volunteers.
- At a senior player level, the recent success of the youth system has ensured that several new players have transitioned to the senior squads, however there is an ongoing challenge in terms of current lower playing numbers at youth level, and so player retention is important.
- Due to the fact that there is a need to increase the pool of volunteers at all levels, it is particularly important that current volunteers are retained and not overloaded.
- Pitches: there are limited playing facilities with only two pitches at the club which cater for a growing demand both in terms of training and matches.
- Club House: This is outdated and there is a need for improvement of the facilities to ensure they are inviting, attractive and appealing to everyone, within and beyond rugby activity.
- Community engagement and creating a social environment/atmosphere at the club.
- Ensuring there is variety in the ‘products’ which the club offers – i.e. something for everyone.
Marketing and promotion:
- Capitalise on the channels available to the club to market / promote itself i.e. social media (and ensure there are volunteers to match).
How have Ulster Rugby staff provided support to the club?
Over the past two to three years, Ulster Rugby have provided significant support and advice to the club. It is important to state that the club has greatly appreciated the overall level of support from Ulster Rugby which has included a variety of assistance and support beyond those items detailed below.
The main areas of assistance have been as follows:
Club Development Plan
Matthew Holmes engaged with the Club and worked with a select group of volunteers from across the club to develop a detailed Club Development Plan. This process occurred over around 10 months with several meetings and workshops.
The outcomes from this engagement were hugely beneficial with a live 2018/2021 club development plan, a detailed action list, consultation evenings and club survey sent to all members.
Nicci Wilson has provided valuable and extensive support regarding volunteering. This has included many visits to the club to work closely with representatives to increase knowledge and provide practical advice in volunteer recruitment and retention. The club has attended practical workshops which ultimately lead to a complete reworking of the club structures. The new club structures are now operational (May 2019) and this is having a positive impact across the club.
Kerry Spence has provided significant assistance and support with safeguarding within the club. This has included visits to the club to meet the CWO plus other members, as well as ongoing support via phone/email and in engaging the club in relevant safeguarding training and even in organising a course at the club itself.
Club Community Rugby Officer (CCRO)
Neill Alcorn and Chris Galway have engaged with the club in helping it, both in terms of applications for a CCRO aligned to the club and in guiding both club and CCRO in optimising delivery to maximise the benefit to Randalstown.
David Johnston and Matthew Holmes have provided guidance on various grants that may be useful/available to the club. This assistance has included workshops run by Ulster Rugby.
This information and engagement will be particularly useful as Randalstown moves forward with developing its pitch and club house facilities.
- Club Development Plan for 2018/2021
- New club structures – essentially a move from separate senior / youth / women’s committees to a one-club approach, with a streamlined Executive Committee representing all sections as well as operational and autonomous sub-committees.
- Volunteer events and a co-ordinated approach has helped the club start to increase its pool of volunteers.
- Achieved Club Mark Accreditation.
- Increased knowledge and certification of Volunteers in Safeguarding.
- Aligned Club Community Rugby Officer (CCRO) has been key in recruitment of boys and girls to the Club.
- Increased knowledge of grants and assistance in applying for those when relevant will be hugely beneficial as Club move forward with developing its pitch and Club House facilities.
What next for the club?
- Continue to deliver on the 3-year Club Action Plan.
- Investigation underway into improvement of playing facilities.
- Club Capital Fund was recently launched with an aim to redevelopment the club house.