Lockdown sports series: Women's Rugby

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By Alice Fitzgerald, 3rd Year Biology

Over the coming weeks, Epigram Sport has been looking at how several University sports clubs have adapted to life in lockdown. In the seventh article of the series, UBWRFC explain how the pandemic has forced them to crowdfund and ultimately save their club.

Rugby: a sport that typically provokes one of two reactions – ‘ouch!’ Or ‘woah!’

But when you say those three fateful words as a female player ‘I play rugby’, those sounds of impressiveness turn to ones of shock.

‘Rugby?!’ they say, ‘as in touch?’ or ‘with tackles and everything?’ … yes, with tackles and everything.

But despite all the challenges faced and overcome by our girls, there is one that not even we could overcome – a global pandemic.

Unity is at the heart of UBWRFC | UBWRFC

So, with heavy hearts we abided by the rules, cancelled our training, waved goodbye to our teammates and felt the frustration of being so close to competing in the National Cup final.

Still, placing 3rd in the Women’s Southern Premier league off the back of an incomplete season was impressive work from our 1st team girls.

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Unaware it was our last training session, we said our goodbyes, not knowing for some people it would be the last time we saw them as teammates instead of alumni.

The effects of the pandemic were widespread and the majority we adapted to. For example:

  • The first online AGM as Caitlin Trevithick was announced as Club Captain.
  • Strength & conditioning found a new home on Instagram, where @ubwrfcsandc holds a number of sweaty home workout selfies.
  • Varsity went virtual; with us beating UWE in a race around Europe.
  • Challenges were issued through inter-team competitions, keeping fit and having fun whilst we were away – competitions that were wonderfully scored using the Mario Kart point system.
  • Social secs Alex Johnston and Maggie Hishon ran an end of year dinner via Zoom.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, however, Covid-19 has had a much more damaging impact than we had dared to think. The financial implications of Coronavirus have left the club fighting for its future.

With hardships being felt across the country, our sponsors in Bristol are no longer able to support the team in the upcoming year. Additionally, funding from the University was diverted to other places.

UBWRFC have been forced to set up a GoFundMe in order to survive

So, the club rose to the challenge of attaining financial security, for current and future players alike to be able to experience the UBWRFC family.

This is a family that has been recognised across the board for multiple successes including: Bristol SU Sports Club of the Year, #WeAreBristol Club of the year, Participation Drive of the Year and Gold Balloon Accreditation.

The financial implications of COVID have left the club fighting for its future

Not only can UBWRFC count all these awards in their impressive repertoire, they also have over 100 members, making it the biggest women’s team in the UK.

In addition to this, now-alumni Beth Lewis won Student Staff Member of the Year, and ex-Club Captain Frankie Woolf picked up the RED’s Director award.

Frankie Woolf (right) was awarded the RED's Director Award 

Ensuring that these achievements continue to be a part of the University experience is crucial for future students, but also for those currently at the club.

Unsurprisingly, struggling for survival was a shock for players and supporters alike.

In true resilient UBWRFC spirit we refused to go down quietly, setting up a fundraiser spearheaded by Ellie McCarthy. To date we have raised £5,790 through generous supporters and strangers alike. This money will ensure we continue to thrive, not just as a club but as a family.

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As said by Ayah Alzetani, a rugby girl from UWE: ‘From one Bristol University to the other, it’s important to support each other in these unprecedented times’.  

It is this sense of unity on which the sport of rugby stands. As a team, we are proud to be respected and supported in this manner, irrespective of any local rivalry, we are united through being female rugby players.

However, the struggle is not over yet.

The amount of funding raised so far is incredible, but not yet enough to secure our future. Therefore, I implore you to raise awareness for this worthy cause, give anything you can and please spread the message far and wide.

Fortunately, the girls will be back on the pitch soon and we all hope the club will be able to guarantee its safety.

If you are interested in donating to the club follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ubwrfc-emergency-fundraising


Has your team had suffered any financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic?

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