The Unsung Heroes of Grassroots Rugby
Grassroots Rugby Media certainly isn't the only online platform for amateur rugby fans and players. There are several unsung heroes working relentlessly behind the scenes, promoting and increasing participation the sport. I caught up with some of the key players in order to discuss how their platforms supports grassroots rugby plus more.
Sean Phelan started Fill Your Boots (FYB) in 2015. FYB is a "player exchange" platform designed to find players when teams are low in numbers and promote new teams and squads. "I started FYB off the back of the smallest Rugby Club World Cup, I was part of the organisng the committee with my club; Racal Decca RFC. Racal Decca has always struggled for players, we only field one team but sometimes struggle to fill a 15, so we've always borrowed players. It got me thinking that this could be a more wide spread issue and wasn't just us feeling the pinch. It turns out I was right!"
Sean isn't sure where he would like to see FYB in 5 years time, but he certainly wants to continue helping clubs and supporting grassroots rugby.
1. What has FYB's greatest achievement been to date?
"I think FYB's greatest achievement has been helping the clubs in need. It's always great to hear how we have helped a club find that extra player which could be the difference between a match happening or being cancelled"
2. What do you think rugby is lacking across both codes?
"I don't know enough about grassroots rugby league to comment but I'm not sure what the legacy of Rugby World Cup 2015 really was when it comes to grassroots Union. I do think the RFU should be doing more to help our clubs survive, they didn't know who Racal Decca were until we hosting our own world event! They keep making nice healthy profits so it would be nice to see them used to good effect!!"
3. Why is FYB important ?
"Grassroots sport (not just rugby) is a way of life for a lot of people, we have to try and preserve as best as possible. Players are a clubs life source, if we don't have the players playing then clubs to gal by the waste side and that's not good. We just want to help as many clubs as possible. If one game can't happen for any reason, there are plenty of players that aren't playing but could be. It's those could be players that can help other local clubs make their games happen. It also is that difference for the club whether it's subs or bar takings, our grassroots clubs need all the help we can give them."
Our second Unsung hero is Rugby United, which on the surface seems like the largest community of Rugby Fans, so naturally GRM wanted to discuss Rugby United's involvement in Grassroots Rugby. We caught up with Gemma Fox, who lives in Gloucester but claims to be from the North despite never trying chip spice! Gemma supports Glasgow Warriors and has been heavily involved in Rugby United
1. What's your favourite thing about rugby?
"The community. Everyone is welcome, and having a drink with the opposition fans is part of the fun".
2. What is rugby united and what is your involvement?
"#rugbyunited is a community of rugby lovers, players, refs who are united with one common interest...RUGBY. We mainly focus on rugby union but I know there is a bit of league work going on.
It was started way back in December 2011 by Trevor Large and Rich Church Keen along with Nick Lewis as a way to get rugby fans talking online. I actually didn't like the concept at first, it was a "follow for a follow" thing which I hated. I interacted with a whole bunch of people though & started to push how great the community was. I made some great contacts and started working with Trev, going along to do player interviews etc and was asked to come on board as part of "management" in May 2012. I was put in charge of marketing and events as that was my background & I managed to put on the first ever #rugbyfair in 2014 which raised about £1,500 for charity!
We have "staff" all over the world & have worked with huge brands such as Pro12, Aviva Premiership, Canterbury and Dove Men. We now have over 75,000 followers across all accounts which is amazing considering it was "just a hashtag" to start!
We are a non-monetary organisation (we make no money and spend no money!) and all of our "staff" (including management) are volunteers. We all have other jobs and do all of this in our spare time. So as you can imagine we all get busy and that's the beauty of #rugbyunited it's flexible. You work for us when you can. You get some amazing perks (stash, tickets, meeting players!) and you make lifelong friends.
So to summarise, #rugbyunited is the best thing I've ever been involved with!!"
There are 1.8 million registered rugby players in the UK, across both codes, and these are the guys doing the graft behind the scenes for rugby at grassroots level!