Trying time for rugby

Jonathan Landi from Enfield Ignatians RFC on how the borough’s top rugby club has been affected by the pandemic

Enfield Ignatians RFC play at Enfield Playing Fields in Donkey Lane
Enfield Ignatians RFC play at Enfield Playing Fields in Donkey Lane

Enfield Ignatians RFC, in common with other sports clubs up and down the land, has had to navigate the uncertain landscape of Covid-19 lockdowns in the last two years, throwing up a number of challenges that have had to be met head on.

The spirit of the club has certainly burned bright during the ongoing health crisis and, in the first instance, Ignatians caught the national mood by supporting the NHS and raising £2,000 for Barnet Hospital.

Despite the pandemic, the senior and junior sections have continued to operate within the prescribed Rugby Football Union (RFU) guidelines. And in the period from September 2020 to April 2021, the senior section played a hybrid form of the game which resulted in eight wins from nine games.

We then moved to pre-season and, after winning our warm-up game against Chelmsford, the promoted blue and golds embarked on a return to life in London Two North-West – the seventh tier of club rugby union in England – where we have won three of nine league games to date.

The pandemic has inevitably meant a decline in senior playing resources, as players have drifted away from the game – something of a national trend – and, at a push, Ignatians is managing to field two senior teams, but actively striving to run three.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the junior section has emerged largely unscathed and, if anything, many of the sides such as the under-16s, under-11s and the girls’ section, in particular, have reported an increase in playing numbers.

Treasurer Rob Bruce said: “There are two problem areas, and the playing side has not fully recovered since the return of full-contact rugby. This inevitably has a knock-on effect on subs

and bar takings, as there are many occasions when we have no home games.

“Furthermore, the national economy has yet to fully recover. Sponsors are forthcoming, but some are paying about half of what they did pre-Covid. Furthermore, the income generated from hiring out the clubhouse for functions has yet to match pre-pandemic levels.”

Still, we aren’t a club to let the grass grow under our feet and, in addition to obtaining a government grant, Ignatians is addressing the playing and financial shortfalls via two crowdfunding initiatives. Our latest venture in this area, the EIRFC Restart Fund, is designed specifically to address recruitment issues by targeting the wider community, and schools in particular. A recruitment drive across social media is also planned and, in addition to investing in playing equipment and recruiting more coaches, the club is also improving facilities, with the aim of encouraging people to stay longer at the clubhouse.

The road ahead is certainly a long and winding one, but the club is well versed when it comes to executing big projects, and we are very well placed to face the future.

Support the Enfield Ignatians crowdfunder, EIRFC Restart Fund:
Visit
crowdfunder.co.uk/eirfc-restart-fund