Haywards Heath RFC reluctantly withdraw from London 1 South - read their full statement here

Haywards Heath Rugby Club have withdrawn from London 1 South league for the 2021/22 season.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 12:22 pm
The Club tried to negotiate a better solution with the London league secretary and Sussex RFU but despite the challenges of Covid and no rugby having been played for a year and a half, neither organisation have been able to step in and assist with the plight of the Club or apply any flexibility with the rules for league participation to allow the Club to compete at a level more reflective of its remaining squad.

Heath were preparing for the London 1 season after gaining promotion from London 2 in 2019. With the 2020/21 season being cancelled they were hoping to get going next month.

But this morning (Thursday, August 19) they revealed they would be dropping out of the division.

Here is their statement in full:

Haywards Heath Rugby Club has made the difficult decision to withdraw from London 1 South league for the 2021/22 season and as things currently stand it looks like they will therefore be competing with one squad in Sussex 2 next season.

The Club tried to negotiate a better solution with the London league secretary and Sussex RFU but despite the challenges of Covid and no rugby having been played for a year and a half, neither organisation have been able to step in and assist with the plight of the Club or apply any flexibility with the rules for league participation to allow the Club to compete at a level more reflective of its remaining squad.

This situation is the result of a number of factors including:

- Diminishing numbers of senior players are prepared to commit to training and playing every week during the season and this has been exacerbated by the last 18 months of disruption where players with young families and other responsibilities have experienced less demands on their weekend time. Others have second jobs, new jobs, new families/relationships and many of the promotion winning squad are now in their thirties - Covid has given many a different perspective on life and as a Club we understand and appreciate this situation. The result was, with only 7-8 fully committed players of a standard to be able to participate week in week out, it would be wrong to try to enter a highly competitive and challenging league.

- The lack of resources extended particularly to the forwards and front row of the scrum where it is impossible to expect less experienced or able players to compete at a higher level without the potential dangers that may follow. Most of the Heath squad have played no contact rugby since February 2020 so from a health and safety point of view we thought it best to be honest and open with the leagues about our situation as it became clear that the numbers committed to train were not building up during pre-season as had been hoped.

- Younger players loyal to Heath are either off to university this year or not currently of the level required at London South 1. We have a duty of care as a Club and are unwilling to put our players on the pitch against opposition where the outcome would be demoralising and could even become dangerous.

- We do not pay players which has made recruitment difficult and our flagship former Head Coach, Quins professional and former Heath mini/junior Ross Chisholm moved to another Sussex club in the Spring as we were unable to match the financial offer they made. We understood the reasons for the decision and wish Ross nothing but success in his role at Horsham RFC.

- The facilities at Whitemans Green are deteriorating further and without the support hoped for and needed from local and national funding authorities to improve the Clubhouse with the much-heralded new multi-sport pavilion, it is not an attractive prospect for new players with no existing loyalty to the Club or existing players to remain. The Club has independently raised nearly £800k towards the new facility to take advantage of the once in a lifetime opportunity offered by the generous support of Fairfax, yet still the sport and political organisations appear unable to match fund or help the Mid Sussex area get the sporting facilities the area deserves.

- Heath was keen to be able to compete in a league somewhere between London 1 and Sussex 2 since we are aware that a number of teams already in Sussex 2 may be apprehensive to play us since we are at a standard above their own, even with the players we are losing to other Sussex and Kent teams. We therefore end up in a catch 22 situation where we are unable to field a suitable team for one higher league and shunned by the other for being too strong!

- The lack of support and encouragement from the league organisations is extremely disappointing - so much so that while replying to our request for assistance they also alerted all other clubs in London 1 that we were withdrawing from the league - giving the Club no opportunity to manage the message more widely. At a time the game is struggling at grassroots level this is very demoralising to all involved.

The Club did not take this decision lightly but felt there was no alternative. Unfortunately, the relevant rugby authorities have refused to enter into a conversation regarding alternative options at this time or even indicate a degree of understanding, instead informing the Club that Sussex 2 was the only place for the senior squad next season. We have now lost the remaining 7/8 of our strongest performing senior players, many very loyal and longstanding members of the Club who have left reluctantly, and we wish them all great success at their new Clubs.

We are particularly keen to understand whether there are other rugby or other sports clubs out there in a similar position post Covid who could help in some way. Currently the only path for the Heath senior squad appears to be a retrenchment and rebuilding.

The Club continues to excel at junior and mini level and has a very strong Colts section of around 50 boys many playing to a high standard. Notwithstanding those that we will lose to university in one or two years’ time, the Club is hopeful that a new senior squad with a mix of experience and youth will emerge to enable Heath to compete once again at the level its players and its supporters deserve.

Moving forward, this Saturday 21 August the senior squad are playing a friendly pre-season fixture against Hove RFC – the first senior competitive match at Whitemans Green since February 2020. Kick off is at 12noon – all support welcome. The Club is also encouraged by the support received from some of the London 1 teams who still plan to travel and play a friendly against Heath on what would have been a league fixture date next season.

The club are seeking friendlies not just from other Sussex clubs but also from out of the county to keep the games competitive.

They will entering as many cup competitions as they can.

450 children from U6 to U16/ Colts expected to return to youth rugby from Sunday 5 September.

The club will also continue to push towards building a new Clubhouse at Whitemans Green.

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