Harlow Rugby Club boss admits: “Sometimes the club feels like a noose around our neck”

Business / Thu 14th Sep 2023 at 02:34pm

IT was and is an ambitious project. For decades, Harlow Rugby Club played at Ram Gorse. Just a couple of pitches and a ramshackle clubhouse. But a huge heart and a lot of history.

In 2018, they moved to a state of the art development off Howard Way. The pitches are fantastic whilst the magnificent clubhouse is very impressive.

But they only really had one full year and then Covid struck and that had implications both on and off the pitch.

On the pitch, the club have gone from strength to strength culminating in their historic appearance at Twickenham.

Off the pitch? It looks like Covid and then the cost-of-living crisis are two tough issues to tackle.

Chairman Paul Tucker made the following observations after their Annual General Meeting on August 30th.

Chairman’s Statement
Aside from rugby we have been very busy over the last 12 months and thanks to the hard work of our Latton Park staff we have expanded our hospitality and functions offering. We are now a licensed venue for civil marriages, partnerships and other ceremonies and have four weddings already booked in the diary for next year.

We have undergone many cost cutting exercises, reviewed our catering options and relaunched our sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

We have hosted several successful ticketed events, provide a weekly what’s on post, facilitated additional revenue streams which included hiring out the club and car park to Disney as they filmed in Long Ley.

We have an amazing clubhouse and facility, the envy of most, but it does come with some downsides not least of which is the continued impact of the cost-of-living crisis. For us this means soaring clubhouse and pitch maintenance costs and overwhelming increases in our utility bills – sometimes the club feels like a noose around our neck. Did you know that our total membership income barely covers the costs of our annual utility bills.

Annual sponsorship, grants and charitable donations are also a key element to the funding of all our teams’ activities. We have relaunched our sponsorship packages and have many corporate or personal donation packages available. These include corporate packages for our Men’s 1st XV and Ladies 1st XV, corporate sponsor, or supporter donations for our Men’s 1st XV Shirt Numbers and much, much, more…

However, having spent many hours on the phone with potential sponsors it is very clear that like us many of our local businesses and partners are also feeling the cost-of-living squeeze and all too often I receive the response, we love what you’re doing, we would love to, but unfortunately costs have soared and we have no budget for sponsorship.

Generating revenue to run the club and maintain it to the highest standards is a challenge for us all. This task is all too often left to a few so if any member can help in any way, please let me know.

Strategic Plan
We often spend too long thinking about the negatives, but we have much to be proud of. I recently reviewed the Rugby Playing objectives we set ourselves in 2018 and whilst it’s taken a little longer than we may have wished, largely because of losing 2 years to COVID-19, it’s a pleasure to note that most of these objectives have now been realised.


  1. To provide rugby playing opportunities for all, regardless of age, sex or ability, not limiting the rugby to full contact but considering all other forms of the game. Done.
  2. To have a comprehensive system that meets the RFU Safeguarding and welfare criteria and the needs of the Club. Done.


  1. Men’s 1st XV to be playing L6 rugby. Done.
  2. To have a minimum of 1x L2 Coach per team. Done. We also have 3x L3 Coaches.
  3. To run a full comprehensive school development program supporting local Harlow schools. Done.
  4. To run 3x Senior Male Teams. Done.
    To run 2x Ladies Teams. Work in Progress.
    To run 1x Junior Girls Team. Done. We now have u12; u14; u16 and u18 Girls Teams.
    To run all age grade teams from u6 to u18. Done.

Over the course of the coming year, it is vital that we review our playing strategy and objectives. It is vital that we present a clear plan on where we want to be in the medium and long term, face the undoubted challenges that lay ahead, not least of which is how we independently fund any aspiration of playing L5 Rugby and above.

It is also clear to me that there is an overwhelming burden of all aspects of running the club being shouldered by a few! We do not mind doing the heavy lifting but, by our own admission the executive is stretched too thin and so I implore anyone with business and/or strategic planning skills to step forward and lend a hand. I have already engaged in a few conversations in this regard and look forward to many more!

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2 Comments for Harlow Rugby Club boss admits: “Sometimes the club feels like a noose around our neck”:

2023-09-14 19:25:31

So am I missing something? Where did the millions go from selling the land to developers, and it must have been millions. Surely some of it reached the clubs bank account even if they didn't own the ground directly?

2023-09-20 13:39:34

There was a covenant on the old ground at Ram Gorse which effectively meant that any money left over from the sale of the old ground after all the costs had been met to build the new one were distributed to stakeholders like the local council and the new towns commission. In short, the rugby club didn't get a brand new facility plus a bank account full of money, the new facility has to generate income to stay afloat.

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