Of course, no rugby club has escaped the effects of the lockdown. However, those part-time clubs with larger crowds, such as Fylde, who attract between 600-700 to games and subsequently generate greater bar takings, have taken a more painful hit. The bigger the facilities, the more it costs to maintain it.
Young says the club has monthly outgoings of around £6,000-£7,000. Under normal circumstances, Fylde do well to break even. Now they are desperately trying to keep their heads above water.
“The scary thing is that we just don’t know what is around the corner or how long this is going to last,” says Young, who represented Fylde alongside Beaumont in the second row during the 1980s.
“We are reasonably comfortable that we could get through this initial period, but after that it is all a question of when rugby comes out of the lockdown. The longer it goes on, the worse it looks.” “We have to consider all options. We are based in an area with very high property values so maybe we have to use our assets to help run the club in a more creative way.”
“While we are yet to sort the applications; their names indicate the calibre and experience they have. Winning back-to-back Olympic sevens gold have definitely attracted outstanding and reputable applicants. Ben Ryan and Gareth Baber have set the bar, those applying are well aware of this.”
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s captain Josua Vakurinabili in action against Australia in the Dubai 7s last weekend. Photo: World Rugby
Fiji’s back-to-back rugby sevens Olympic gold wins have attracted a decent selection of sevens coaches for the vacant top national sevens job.
Yesterday Fiji Rugby chief executive officer John O’Connor disclosed that of the 30 applicants for the national sevens coach only two of them were local applicants.
“We have received 30 applications, majority are from overseas. I can confirm that only two are from Fiji,” O’Connor said.
“This is by far the most number of overseas applicants we have received for the national sevens coach position,” he said.
“While we are yet to sort the applications; their names indicate the calibre and experience they have.”
“Winning back-to-back Olympic sevens gold have definitely attracted outstanding and reputable applicants.”
Former Vodafone Fiji 7s Coach Ben Ryan
“Ben Ryan and Gareth Baber have set the bar, those applying are well aware of this.”
Rugby sevens was played for the first time at the 2016 Rio Olympics following the decision of the 121st session in Copenhagen in October 2009.
Fiji in 2016 under Ryan, won their first Olympic gold medal after thrashing Great Britain 43-7; South Africa took the bronze after beating Japan.
Former Fiji Airways Fiji 7s Coach Gareth Baber
In 2020 (played this year) under coach Baber, the Fijians conquered New Zealand 27-12 in the Tokyo finals for their back-to back Olympic win.
“We are going to start work on the applications next week,” he said.
“Right now the focus is on the second Dubai sevens this weekend and we are hopeful that both our Fijian Airways men and Fijiana sides will bring the gold medals.”
Upcoming HSBC World Rugby 7’s series for 2022 include:
January 21-23 (Malaga, men & women),
Jan 28-30 (Spain, men & women),
February 26-27 (Vancouver, men),
March 5-6 (Los Angeles, men),
April – Hong Kong postponed until November 2022,
April 9-10 (Singapore, men),
April 30 – May 1 (Canada, women),
May 20 -22 (France, men & women),
May 28 -29 (London, men).
July 28- 31 Commonwealth Games (Birmingham).
September 9 -11, World Cup (Cape Town).
The 2022 RWC will again comprise of 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams.
The clock wound down during this strange moment involving the Blitzboks and Japan
General shot of crowds at the Dubai Sevens (Getty Images)
Watch: Bizarre moment player held-up at Dubai Sevens
We are used to seeing defenders in the 15s game employing the ‘choke tackle’ – the art of holding a tackled player up off the ground, creating a maul in the hope of getting a turnover. But it was a real novelty to see a player held up in sevens. So when South African star Selwyn Davids was help up by these Japanese player (with the clock ticking away) at the Dubai Sevens, it was a novelty to say the least.
What makes this so strange, apart from the time draining away? Well, because none of Davids’s Blitzboks team-mates engaged, the referee was forced to say “this is not a maul.”
In 15s, we would likely see a turnover but this is the Sevens World Series. So time ran on. The Japanese players had to rip the ball or get him down…. or drive him into touch. None of this happened and so we had a stalemate.
The ball was eventually worked out to South Africa’s JC Pretorius, after the Japanese side had given up the ghost on this defensive ploy.
As World Rugby say on their official account, “You’ve never seen this before in sevens. Trust us.” And you know what? They are probably right!
South Africa won the first leg of the Dubai Sevens last week, and defeated Japan here 48-0. Their next match-up is against Ireland Sevens, with Great Britain also on their fixture card.
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Andrea Pinchen knows she is not everyone’s identikit view of a leading Premiership rugby union figure. “Let’s not beat around the bush,” says Leicester’s chief executive, reflecting on her lesser-spotted status as one of the league’s only two female chief executives. “I think a lot of people looked at me in a strange way. I totally understand why they would have that image because there aren’t that many women in sport at senior level.”
Nor have many other Premiership CEOs, regardless of gender, had to prove their worth in the Middle East, rising through the ranks with Emirates from cabin crew member to become a specialist in aviation security. “I was very much used to working in a male environment, standing up in front of 50 male pilots talking to them about bombs and hijackings. Going into a rugby club wasn’t really that intimidating.”
Her obvious relish for a challenge is certainly paying off in the east Midlands. When Pinchen took on her current role in May 2020, Leicester were still surveying the debris of a wretched decade, having avoided relegation only because of the salary cap indiscretions of Saracens (who also now possess a female chief executive in Lucy Wray). Now the Tigers are kings of the jungle again, leading the field by six points as they prepare for the visit of the champions Harlequins on Sunday. For the first time in three years Welford Road will be full and the club’s mood has been transformed.
The credit clearly has to be shared with the head coach, Steve Borthwick, his staff, the players and a reshuffled board but Pinchen’s determination to ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction has been crucial. A wry laugh is also never far away, perhaps the most heartening Leicester news of all. In the grand old Tigers days it was a defining characteristic: hard and committed, yes, but down to earth and fun with it.
Pinchen gives the impression of being all those things, having grown up locally and worked in the club’s ticket office as far back as 2004. At busy times she would think nothing of yelling at passing players to answer the phone, sometimes resulting in unsuspecting callers finding Martin Johnson on the other end of the line.
Fast forward 17 years and “one of the things that surprised me most” was discovering the straight-talking, tough discussions she routinely had in business were less regular within her local rugby club. “Nobody enjoys having conversations about people’s performance [but] in my experience business people are a lot more used to that. You’re like: ‘Hold on, you’re supposed to be the big testosterone-filled guys, what’s happening?’”
There was certainly much embarrassed stammering the day she visited the training ground at Oval Park, while still the club’s commercial director, and asked the then-coaching staff to share their key performance indicators. “At the time I was putting together a three-year commercial strategy and wanted to talk to the coaches about what their strategy was.” Subsequently she presented a report to the chairman, Peter Tom, calling for a more unified sense of direction. “Peter and I had a pretty honest conversation. I don’t purport to know the in and outs of rugby, that’s not my field, but from a business perspective there were some real areas where I thought we could add value.”
Strategically, in short, the Tigers have been reborn. Four key values – Club First, Tough, Passionate, Driven – were sewn into the collar of the team shirt and Pinchen – “You can’t put ‘tough’ all over your branding if you’re not prepared to be it” – makes no attempt to gloss over Leicester’s stuck-in-a-rut past. “Let’s not shy away from the fact we were pretty much saved from relegation by what happened with Saracens. You’ve got to face facts rather than trying to ignore it and simply plugging along doing the same things. That way lies insanity. Of course we all want to win, otherwise we’d be doing something else. But what are the stepping stones to maintaining it? What happens if you lose a game at some point? You can’t just be floundering around saying: ‘My whole ethos is to win.’”
The next big challenge for all is to confirm a fly-half successor to George Ford, who is off to Sale at the end of this season. “We wanted him to stay, there’s no secret to that. But he’s gone for family reasons which we totally respect.” But can a club who lost £1m a month during lockdown afford a top-drawer marquee replacement? “It’s not a case of: ‘George is leaving, we need to panic.’ The club’s finances are stable. We’ll make sure, as we always have on the rugby side, that we’re spending up to the cap and that we’re as strong as we can be.”
It clearly helps that Pinchen and Borthwick are on the same page. She says she has learned a lot from him – “He’s an amazing person to work with, just in terms of how analytical his brain is” – and has a similarly strong work ethic. Days off – “what are they?” – are rare and the occasional jog from her home near Melton Mowbray is her most relaxing hobby. “My family understand how all-encompassing the job is. And it is, let’s make no bones about that. Sometimes that work-life balance is not always there. But given what the NHS frontline staff have been through recently, I won’t complain about being the CEO of Leicester Tigers. I feel very lucky.”
As she also stresses, though, there remains a long way to go. “When you’ve got something as big as Leicester Tigers that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a case of: ‘Look at us, aren’t we great?’ We’re far from the finished article.” Among the fans, though, faith is returning. “This weekend is our first sell-out since 2018. Did we lose some support when things weren’t going so well? Yes, of course. Those ad hoc ticket purchases, you lose some of that. But our season-ticket holders have stuck with us through thick and thin. It’s really humbling to see the depth of support.”
If nothing else Leicester will find out this Sunday precisely how much of their bounce they have regained. “Quins are the champions, they’re the benchmark,” says Pinchen, her voice hardening slightly. “It’s not an ambition of Leicester just to be there or thereabouts. We want to be at the business end of the table when it matters.”