THE OVAL CLUB
For many years the Rugby Club had to contend with overdrafts and loans from banks to ensure its survival and it is a perennial problem meeting the budget figures. The funding of projects is very difficult to achieve without increasing the overall debt or cutting back on areas that are really in need of money to maintain their standing.
With this in mind in 1998 some members got together to try to find a way of raising funds to help the Club. Several schemes were discussed but ultimately The Oval Club was founded with the aim ‘To contribute towards promoting the highest possible standard of rugby throughout Bishop's Stortford Rugby Football Club’. A committee of five was formed and each member tasked with finding ten members who would contribute regularly to the fund that would be set up. It is a mark of their ‘salesmanship’ that the Committee achieved its target and The Oval Club was off to a sound start. From the beginning it was decided that The Oval Club should be autonomous and entirely independent of the Rugby Club’s financial and administrative operations and in this all the Committee members have no connection with any position or appointment in the Rugby Club’s infrastructure. The Oval Club does not influence, and does not want to influence, decisions of the Rugby Club, although most of the Trustees are members of The Oval Club. It communicates with the Rugby Club through one person who channels all requests for financial assistance to The Oval Club with the full knowledge of the Rugby Club’s Executive Committee, thereby maintaining total integrity between the two organisations.
From The Oval Club’s fund two thirds of the income are donated to specific projects that the Rugby Club wants to undertake and the other third is reserved for a members’ fund to provide social occasions as a means of payback. A principle that The Oval Club has always stood by is that it will only provide funds for one-off projects that will be of long term value to the Rugby Club and not regular requirements that should be undertaken through the budget of the Rugby Club.
The Oval Club has been in existence for 15 years and has raised over £177,000 of which the Rugby Club has received £106,663 for various projects. These cover a major contribution towards the cost of:
• Floodlighting the back field pitch,
• Improvement of the playing surfaces, including the purchase of a Verti-drainer,
• Supporting Youth and Mini through, tours, kit and additional playing facilities,
• Replacement of goal posts,
• Playing equipment and travel costs for all teams,
• Purchase of physiotherapy equipment,
• Refurbishing the changing rooms’ showers,
• The drainage of the floodlit pitch,
• Junior coaching courses, and
• Pitch repair and maintenance.
Mention was made earlier of the social side of The Oval Club and here members have enjoyed several events each year provided by their fund. One of the annual highlights is a day out to the Steele-Bodgers match at Cambridge University when a coach is provided to convey members to and from Cambridge, as well as tickets to the match and food and drink for lunch and often après match. There is an annual self-supporting golf day at one of the local golf clubs when The Oval Club Trophy for the winning team and Best Individual Cup are played for, this is followed by the players returning to a suitable venue, and being joined by the non-playing members for drinks and supper. The opportunity is taken then to have a forum to update members on the annual activities of The Oval Club and to give a statement of the accounts. Lunch is also provided at one of the First XV’s home league fixtures when the match ball is sponsored.
Currently the membership has risen to 76. It is not anticipated that the membership will increase much beyond this point and in fact the Committee are keen that it should not as sufficient funds are generated at present to meet the Rugby Club’s requests. Would-be members are invited to join The Oval Club when numbers permit, however if any Rugby Club member feels strongly that he would like to join The Oval Club then his request, through a member of the Committee, will be duly considered.
It can be seen therefore that The Oval Club has played a considerable part in providing much needed funds for the Rugby Club for facilities to help it enhance its reputation within the rugby community at large. It is possible that without these funds the Rugby Club would have been poorly placed to achieve the results and standards it seeks.
Members of the present Committee are:
Robbie Kerr - Chairman
Ben Millard - Treasurer
John Robinson - Secretary
29th April 2014