Update from Devon RFU Chairman Geoff Simpson

22 Jul 2020 19:21 | Devon RFU


I hope you are all safe and keeping well. I wish I could report that we were 100 per cent back to normal but at present we are far away from that and still on stage B of the RFU Roadmap.

We did manage to hold our AGM on the appointed day at the appointed time. Thank you to those who attended by Zoom.  Officers were re-elected for a further 12 months.

A decision on subscriptions for season 2020/21 will be taken as appropriate in the light of circumstances when rugby activity does fully return and you will be informed accordingly.

A big thank you to nearly all our affiliated clubs for completing the Payment to Players documentation on time. I know that we pestered you but it means that those clubs will be eligible for any RFU benefits that are available during the 20/21 season.

A further reminder that RFU regulation 5 stipulates that: “On or before 31 December each year, each club at Levels 1 to 4 (inclusive) shall send to the RFU’s chief financial officer and every other club shall send to the treasurer of their respective Constituent Body or other relevant organising body for inspection, a properly prepared financial statement for the previous season as presented to club members at a general meeting that has been audited (if applicable) or examined as appropriate in accordance with Regulations 5.1.4 and 5.1.5.”

With many of you having your AGM over the next few weeks during which your accounts for the previous season will be approved, this would be a good time for you to send them to the county treasurer at and it would also be good if our clubs at levels three and four could send copies of the accounts they lodge with the RFU to the treasurer as this will save Mark from having to ask the RFU for them.

I now address the “Return to Rugby” and must emphasise firstly that, despite the recent government announcements on recreational sport, rugby is still at Stage B on the return to rugby road map.

The RFU have issued a statement that it is working on the government’s “Return to Recreational Sports Framework” and guidance for rugby will be issued in due course.

With reference to league rugby, the RFU informed the game of “a three windows model” for the return of community league rugby. In it was mentioned the concept of splitting a league into two geographical groups which would enable the minimum amount of travel for the initial league games. These groups and potential fixtures have been published but I would caution that these are highly conditional.

We have not yet sanctioned the preparation of Merit Table or age grade fixtures in the county.

Inevitably some individuals will delay their return to sporting activity until family or economic circumstances allow them to do so with confidence. This may have an impact on lower XVs and match officials.

This destructive virus may yet have more twists and turns to send our way so it is absolutely paramount that everyone adheres strictly to the RFU roadmap and follows all the advice and instructions in the 31 RFU Community Game updates which have been sent to clubs so far and which include the requirements for a limited reopening of clubhouses.

What the government announcement on the reopening of pubs and clubs did was to highlight what may be needed in clubhouses when they fully reopen. This includes cleansing stations, signage on social distancing, serving barriers at bars etc, etc.

Some of you may have already prepared for this and have bought and installed equipment.

One idea that clubs may wish to consider is to appoint a “Covid-19 facilities and cleansing manager” or similar title, their job being to see that their club is compliant with all government and RFU guidelines on the use of clubhouses and to respond on behalf of their clubs as this changes through the coming months.

Now is the time to prepare for the future. You are probably all aware of the RFU’s recent proposals for the County Championships and Aspirational Rugby. If you are not, then in a nutshell the senior men’s, senior women’s and under-20s championship are suspended for the 20/21 season along with the aspirational teams that go with them, eg England Counties teams.

Further, although there may be under-17 boys’ and under-18s boys’ county rugby, there will not be any divisional or England teams selected from them.

The medium term picture does not look much better. With the RFU predicting a four to five-year economic recovery period, details are emerging of severe funding cuts that will pose major challenges to the game as we knew it.

In the immediate aftermath of the lockdown we established an emergency instant help fund made up of RFU funding with matching from Devon RFU.

Many clubs have managed the immediate crisis very effectively by cutting regular expenditure and accessing whatever local and national help schemes were available. We anticipate, therefore, that the majority of the fund will help with the likely difficulties all clubs will face whenever we have a restart.

I now turn to our old friend GMS - the RFU’s Game Management System. Whatever its historic and ongoing shortcomings, it is the essential communications vehicle between the RFU and its stakeholders. It is vital that clubs engage with this system and that your data is constantly updated.

This is a good time for clubs to make sure that their “key roles” are up to date following any AGM or similar event that have led to personnel changes.

It is also a good time to update your membership records on the system, deleting those who have left the club and changing the status of others who may now have retired from active playing.

The RFU is investing in removing the glitches and a major upgrade has just been completed. Advice is generally available via helpline or online tutorials for those who have not yet familiarised themselves with what can be accessed to help with club administration.

Finally, just a word on the RFU, our parent body. As we all know these are difficult times for us all and that includes the RFU.

We know that the planned autumn internationals will not take place and that a substitute programme is being planned but it is obvious that if that programme does take place the games will not be played in front of a maximum crowd of 80,000-plus at Twickenham!

Numbers between 20,000 to 40,000 have been mentioned due to social distancing. This in turn as we know will leave a great hole in the RFU finances which in turn has already led to cancellations of programs and a cut in finances to the game in general.

We also know that at present a review of the staffing of the RFU is taking place and a figure of 139 job losses within the organisation has been predicted.

Like many people throughout the world these are worrying times for employees of the RFU regarding their future employment and I am sure you will join me showing them support and gratitude at this trying time.

Please keep safe and adhere to the guidance published by the government and RFU. Remember that all of the team here at Devon RFU are ready to help you in any way they can.

Geoff Simpson, Chair, Devon RFU.