Scottish Rugby Clubs Rally to Support Communities
Sport is in shutdown for the foreseeable future, but while the headlines are dominated by cancellations and financial consequences for clubs, there is another story to be told as society responds to the threat of coronavirus.
Guest writer Donald Walker takes a look at some of the clubs supporting their local communities.
The rugby club has long been at the heart of the community, providing a sporting and social focus in towns and villages up and down the land. If that position was ever in any doubt, as playing numbers and membership figures become a bigger challenge than before, then the current coronavirus crisis has demonstrated just how valuable these organisations remain when there is a common cause to rally around.
A host of Scottish rugby clubs have offered the services of players and members to help those who are most in need at the moment, motivated simply by the desire to help others. It is an ethos that has long characterised rugby, and the spirit being shown speaks volumes for the sport.
Dalziel Rugby Club was one of the first to become involved, offering to collect and deliver the shopping of those who were unable to do this themselves, such as the vulnerable or those who are self-isolating.
“Dalziel considers itself to be a community club, and we wanted to support the local community at this difficult time,” says head coach Graham Calder. “It’s a time of need, and it’s about giving something back.”
Other clubs embarked on similar initiatives last week, such as Highland, Oban Lorne and Dalkeith. Kirkcaldy have offered support through the ‘Blues Family’ who will help with groceries, pick up medication, take dogs for a walk, or do whatever is needed, although admitting “we can’t promise toilet roll!”
At Melrose and Southern Knights, there is a similar offer to those in need, with players based in the Borders and Edinburgh available to help. At near neighbours Hawick there is “bucket loads of community spirit” available to help those needing support, again with a bit of humour via an assurance that “players will not handle your shopping like a rugby ball”.
Gordonians are keen to stress that their offer is to everyone, and not only to those with a connection to the rugby club. “We just want to help the wider Aberdeen community wherever we can,” says club secretary Ciaran Marshall. “Our offer of assistance is open to all in Aberdeen, not just in the locality around the club or just our members.”
At Stewart’s Melville in Edinburgh, the club sees many benefits from stepping up to the mark in this hour of need, both for those in the community who are vulnerable, and for club members who may have lost the focal point of their week, and are looking for a purpose.
“We are only doing what we feel is the right thing do to,” says club president Simon Breeze. “The starting point was down to the players. A few of them spoke to our Director of Rugby, Nick McCashin, and stated they wanted to help our older and/or vulnerable members. Nick spoke to me and we passed on the message by email and social media.
“I was a little worried that some of the older members might not be on the internet or may not be willing to ask for help - they don't want to be a burden - so a small band of us contacted some of these members individually to make sure they are okay. We have asked them to get in touch if there is anything they need. We also sent a follow-up email to remind them we are here for them and to simply ask if there is anything needed.
“On the back of the offer of help to our vulnerable members, some of our sponsors and ‘younger’ members have asked if any of the players have small businesses that might need some support. If they can throw some business their way then they will.”
The Inverleith club has had to postpone its annual Summer Ball, but will make alternative arrangements when the crisis abates.
“I think something to look forward to can help ease some of the feelings of hopelessness,” says Simon. “For a lot of our members the highlight of the week is a Saturday afternoon at the rugby club. We still need to work out ways to minimalize the loss of socialising. I will keep up regular emails, and we are open to new ideas. A lot of it is about communication.”
A glance at social media shows that the sentiments and intentions expressed in this article are shared across a rapidly increasing number of Scottish rugby clubs. It was not possible to mention every club in this article, but those who have been included can be contacted as below.
Dalziel RFC: [email protected]
Kirkcaldy RFC: [email protected]
Hawick RFC: [email protected]
Melrose RFC and Southern Knights: [email protected]
Dalkeith RFC: [email protected]
Oban Lorne RFC: [email protected]
Gordonians RFC: [email protected]
Stewart’s Melville: [email protected]