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Fundraising aims to fill short-term void at Cambridge Rugby Club

Cambridge Rugby Club are running a fundraising campaign.
Cambridge Rugby Club are running a fundraising campaign.

Navigating a way through the fallow period is one of the biggest tests facing sports clubs throughout the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The priority for all remains making sure that players, staff and supporters stay safe, but the challenges that may lie ahead cannot be ignored.

Whenever restrictions are relaxed and then finally released, there will be plenty of questions facing all aspects of society regarding income and liquidity from an economical viewpoint.

Cambridge Rugby Club have been building a strong financial foundation over the past five years, but their revenue streams have been switched off overnight.

It means that they have appealed to their supporters and membership to help tide them over during these uncertain times.

Chairman Rob Dean said: “We’ve lost match-day income from the games that were cancelled.

“If you add that to events that were booked and planned at the club from Monday to Friday, and other sundry incomes, our lost income is in excess of £50k.

“We have also got liabilities to pay players and staff, so the money we’ve gone out looking to raise will partially offset those losses and also give us a fund to cover the period for what would be the end of the season.

“It’s for that period – it is yet to be determined how long that will be –where we can’t have anything going on at the club, and therefore no income.

“We’ve had to cancel the May Ball, and we have some quite large corporate events during the summer which is revenue for us.

“They are event bookings made by businesses to use the club facilities, and they have all gone so we have lost that income as well.”

It is being assumed at the club that the earliest things may change would be June but, even then, the scope of what would be possible would be extremely limited.

“It (the crowdfunding) is to bring in and cover the loss of income that we’ve already suffered and we know we’re going to suffer over the next two months, and beyond,” said Dean.

“If lockdown was finished at the end of May, I don’t think they will suddenly say you can have an event for 500 people in June.

“We can almost write off any income until July or August time.”

But there is one huge imponderable.

“The big unknown to us is sponsorship,” said Dean. “We’re lucky that we have a very good spread of sponsors and we don’t rely on any one sponsor, unlike some clubs; we have numerous sponsors.

“At the moment, I don’t think the club can possibly discuss with them what their thoughts are with sponsorship because clearly they have far more important things to be considering.”

What Cambridge can do for their sponsors at this time is equally important for the committee, as Dean explains.

“We’re working on how we can support them,” he said.

“There is not a lot we can do, but anything we can do to help them we will.

“We have put together a little template for social media offering our sponsors the opportunity to promote themselves and we will be doing more of that over the next few weeks.

“If anything, we see it as an opportunity to get closer to some of our sponsors.”

The physical club is shut – in Dean’s words “there is nothing happening there whatsoever, the grass will continue to be cut, but not quite as regularly as it was” – but the committee is working overtime.

It was recently boosted by JJ Jeffrey becoming president, John Hopkins as the new treasurer and Colin Brown also joining to provide assistance.

They are meeting online at least twice a week.

“We’re monitoring all our finances on a daily basis,” said Dean.

“It’s being very prudent and planning for various options which include sponsorship being affected by 25, 50 or 75 per cent.

“We are in a good position in that we don’t rely on a single sugar daddy.

“We have various points of income which include sponsorship, match day, match-day lunches, Monday to Friday bookings, the academy, and all of those, once things are back to normal, will come back.

“Some won’t be impacted. The academy will continue as it has been, we will get bookings and once we start matches, we’ll have lunches.

“The sponsorship is the big unknown.”

The players are also doing their bit. Throughout the season, as a squad, they run fines for certain things, for example turning up late or not wearing the right kit, and these then get used to fund an end-of-year social.

But the squad is donating it to the crowdfunding page.

Ned Brown in action for Cambridge in the win over Sale FC. Picture: Chris Fell
Ned Brown in action for Cambridge in the win over Sale FC. Picture: Chris Fell

Centre Ned Brown also put his monthly retainer and match fees for March and April into the pot.

“Everyone is doing their bit,” said Brown. “We’re in a fortunate position as players for just turning up and playing a bit of rugby, so it’s nice to give something back.

“It’s a close-knit, well-run club, with a lot of people volunteering their time and a lot of work goes unseen so it’s quite a special place.”

The club’s community team, led by fly-half Ben Penfold, has also been redeployed to help the wider society by offering assistance with things like shopping and collections.

“Everyone is pulling together, the mini and youth are getting involved,” said Dean, pictured right.

“Ben and Richie (Williams, the head coach) have put together some webinars for the mini and youth coaches that went down well, we’re planning more of that.

“It’s making the best of the opportunities that this unfortunate event has provided us.”

The crowdfunding has already raised half of the hoped-for £40,000, and Dean added: “We’ve got some very generous members and sponsors who have shown, yet again, how much they care for the club and how generous they can be.”

To make a donation, visit gofundme.com/f/crufc. Or for assistance from the community team, email community@crufc.co.uk.

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