“We are hoping this pause is temporary”
Nigel Melville Interim CEO - RFU
On Monday afternoon , 11th March 2019, the club received a personalised emailed letter from the Interim Chief Executive Officer of the RFU, Nigel Melville.
It read as follows -
I am writing to update you on planning for the Artificial Grass Pitch originally scheduled to be built at Aldwinians RFC in the coming months.
This pitch is part of Phase 3 of the RFU's AGP programme, which began in 2016, and has successfully delivered 26 Artificial Grass Pitches to date around England.
We have taken the difficult decision to suspend the building of the majority of the Phase 3 Artificial Grass Pitches, and this will impact the plans for the pitch at Aldwinians RUFC.
We are hoping this pause is temporary; we are currently in some very promising discussions with a prospective commercial partner for the AGP programme and, if the commercial partnership is agreed, it is our ambition to recommence and deliver Phase 3 as planned. Until these discussions are complete, and given the wider financial challenges for the Union in 2019/20 which we have already communicated to the game, we need to suspend the current phase of the programme.
I realise this is disappointing news and both Steve Grainger, Rugby Development Director, and I are very happy to discuss this with you, so please do call if you would like to. Your local Area Facilities Manager will also be in touch today to discuss the next steps with you. I know you will have a number of questions, and we are committed to answering them and giving you as much information as you need to manage what we hope is a 'pause' to the planned build.
We will of course keep you informed on the discussions we are currently having, and the status of the AGP plans, and aim to provide an update for you in the coming weeks.
The Trustees have taken all necessary steps to prepare for the work to commence ,with an anticipated target date for commencement on 15th April .We were already progressing towards Charitable status as a Charitable Incorporated organisation (CIO) when our inclusion in the AGP programme was confirmed in December 2017 and this was achieved on 8th September 2018-Incorporation being a key requirement to be accepted on the programme.We have been liaising with London based lawyers Fladgate LLP(cost covered by the RFU) ,in the assessment and agreement of three sets of documents prepared by the Rugby Football Union and their solicitors to enable a 30 year Lease to be granted to the RFU , within which they would construct the AGP, and maintain and manage across that 30 year term.The cost of the project is estimated around £850,000.
Two elements of those documents were ready for signing by the Charity, with the remaining Licence documents awaiting approval.
At the same time the Deeds of the clubs land have been in the process of being transferred from the Trustees, who held it on behalf of the unincorporated club, to the newly formed Charity which is Aldwinians Rugby Union Football Club.
We were therefore on schedule to meet the deadlines .
All the Trustees are very disappointed with this announcement from the RFU.The amount of work involved has been substantial to get to this stage, but much more than that, the installation of an AGP facilty at Audenshaw Park would be a springboard for the club to further develop and attract a wider audience and most importantly grow is youth base, build playing expertise across the age groups to prepare for our senior club sides of the future.
There are 12 clubs involved in Phase 3 of the AGP programme - we understand two of those will proceed to plan as they are at the most advanced stage.
Hopefully, the full programme will still happen, remaining optimistic about Nigel Melville's words of 'impending commercial sponsorship' of the AGP programme, a 'pause' in the planned build,and an update' in the coming weeks'.
What we can confirm is that there will be no build across this spring and summer.If the programme does continue it will be this time next year.
You may have seen an article in the papers on 13th March re CVC Private Equity offering to buy a 30% stake in the Six Nations commercial interests that would bring £100 million to each union. This is not the commercial partnership referred to by Mr Melville in his letter.
It is an unrelated suitor they are talking to re the AGP programme.
There is now a refocus on what we must do across the close season to prepare for another season of all grass playing surfaces which have suffered unnecessarily over the worst of the winter weather.
Updated 18:42 - 15 May 2019 by Mike Marrow
We will keep you informed of developments. if any member has any questions please ask any of the Charity's Trustees .