Richmond FC was named Rugby Club of the Year at the National Rugby Awards at Twickenham Stadium last night, on the eve of the world’s second oldest open rugby club returning to the Championship as one of the country’s top 24 clubs.
The club was lauded for the way it has recovered from the dramatic experience of being ejected from the RFU Leagues and being reinstated at Level 9 after going into administration in 1999, winning its way back to the second tier of the game with a decisive title campaign in National Division One last season.
Richmond FC has hung on, through all its dark days, to its traditional amateur spirit – nobody playing for the club earns their living from rugby. Despite that, even surrounded by clubs spending larger amounts in the search for promotion, the club has not only won its way to the Championship on merit, but the Women’s XV has become the dominant force in English rugby – winning five Premiership titles in seven years.
With five men’s XVs, three women’s XVs and Youth and Minis that total more than 800 registered players, all achieved with a sustainable financial position, Richmond is the epitome of a community rugby club in a period of uncertainty over the economic model of the game.
Peter Moore, Chairman of Richmond, who joined the club as a player in 1970, said: “On the eve of welcoming Jersey Reds for the first game of our Championship season, we are thrilled to receive this prestigious Rugby Club of the Year award, which is recognition for the hard work and graft from everyone associated with the club over the past 17 years since we were ejected from the League structure back in 1999.”
“This award is dedicated to all the club staff, coaches, volunteers, supporters, our sponsors, and of course the players from our men’s and women’s sections, as well as our youth and minis, which epitomises our ‘one club’ ethos, and on behalf of the club, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their wonderful effort and contribution. I can’t think of a better way to begin the season as we continue to strive to be the best we can be.”
John Heaton, Club President, added, “This award speaks for the immense heart of people at Richmond, where we have always tried to do our best within our means and stick to what we believe is the true spirit of the game.”
Richmond’s Championship campaign begins with a home game against Jersey Reds tomorrow (Saturday Sept 3rd), followed by a visit to last season’s Premiership giants London Irish at the Madejski Stadium – ironically the final venue for Richmond’s own ill-fated professional campaign in 1999.