Nottingham Rugby can today confirm that the club will take part in a shortened Greene King IPA Championship season due to start over the weekend of 6th / 7th March 2021. The decision comes following a Championships Clubs meeting at which Nottingham Rugby Chairman Alistair Bow confirmed the club’s support for a reduced season.
“We have all been working hard to get some form of meaningful rugby for Championships Clubs and I am delighted that Nottingham will be participating in the league this season”, said Bow.
“We had the bulk of our funding cut, followed by a pandemic and no rugby for almost a year. When we do return, it will be without crowds and our economic model will be very different. But we’ll be able to play again, and this is the first step on being able to re-establish a sustainable professional rugby club here in Nottingham,” added Bow.
Whilst Championship Clubs have been in discussions with the RFU and DCMS for several months in an effort to get the second tier of professional rugby back on the pitch, Premiership rugby clubs have managed to complete their last season and are well into the current campaign. To enable a return, Nottingham and other Championship Clubs will have to follow similar protocols. Despite the increased costs and measures needed, Bow believes it’s worth it:
“We will be required to adopt a similar model to other professional rugby and other sports clubs. It will come at a cost, albeit a lower one now, but it’s one that we are factoring into our budgets for this season and beyond. As a board we felt it was important to play our role in the return of professional sport for the city of Nottingham – we all need something positive at the moment and we hope that getting back playing rugby at The Bay can help. I’d like to thank all our fans, sponsors and shareholders for their understanding and support during such a difficult period for everyone.”
Nottingham’s last scheduled match was due to be against Jersey in March last year, before the pandemic and the cancellation of the rest of the season. Since then, the Nottingham playing squad have returned to small groups of pre-season training in line with Stage 1 of the Return to Rugby for elite sport. The decision today, means the squad can now move to Stage 2.
Head Coach, Neil Fowkes welcomed the move:
“The playing squad have been working exceptionally hard over the past couple of months and we look forward to moving to stage 2 with testing next week. All the players are really excited to be able to get back training properly and playing in the very near future. I would like to express my thanks to all of them, as well as the rugby staff for their continued patience and commitment.”
Once underway, the new season will be the first of an alternative rugby model for Nottingham, one where players combine playing with either employment or study. Whilst many of the squad haven’t had much rugby in the last year, most have been kept busy.
“We have had the longest pre-season I can ever remember and with a new rugby model here at Nottingham, I’m excited to get underway. We’ve got a great squad, combining some of last season’s players, with some new additions. Strangely, our Work, Train and Play programme has done well for us during the pandemic and it’s something we’re going to continue to push as we look to next year and beyond,” said Fowkes.
For more information about career opportunities in Nottingham and our Work, Train and Play programme aimed to support players in a semi-professional rugby model visit: www.nottinghamrugby.co.uk.
The new Championship season is expected to get underway over the weekend of 6th/7th March 2021 and run until early June. The format of the league and fixtures are expected to be announced later this month. Whilst crowds are not expected, it is hoped that matches will be broadcast. Further details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.