When the Rugby Football Union (RFU) took the decision to invest £57 million in the development of artificial grass pitches across England, an initial mapping exercise identified key areas exposed by a shortfall of accessible pitches. One such area was south Cambridge, where there was no World Rugby accredited artificial pitch available to the community and its local rugby clubs.
As part of its Rugby 365 programme, the RFU identified Shelford Rugby Club’s Davey Field – less than five miles south of Cambridge – as the ideal location for a brand new, artificial rugby pitch. The agreement between the club and English Rugby’s governing body saw the installation of a new pitch, floodlights, and fencing, funded by the RFU.
Tasked with the installation of the new facility was specialist sports surface contractor, McArdle Sport-Tec, working in partnership with artificial grass manufacturer, TigerTurf. The partnership saw the installation of TigerTurf’s Rugby 360 surface – a quality rugby-specific product, developed specifically for rugby union and rugby league pitches, and compliant with performance standards for World Rugby, RFL and FIFA.
As part of the Rugby 365 agreement, Shelford RFC became host club for a number of others from the local area, as well as two local universities. The host club is afforded 12 hours’ usage of the new pitch per week, in exchange for the 30-year lease being granted to the RFU. This gives Shelford RFC the option for up to three times more usage than their old, natural pitch, as well as full ownership of any additional revenue generated by bar and food sales. As the pitch is operated by the RFU, heavily-subsidised hire tariffs are offered to clubs involved in the local rugby partnership; ensuring access and participation is maximised all year round.
Tony Roberts, chairman at Shelford Rugby Club, commented: “The deal we’ve struck with the RFU makes great sense for both parties. 12 hours of rugby time is a lot considering we only play one first team home game every two weeks and train on Thursday and Tuesday. This gives us the option of allowing it to be used by the youth and ladies’ teams for the rest of the time, not to mention offering it to other rugby clubs and schools for tournaments. The big difference the new pitch will make is that it will give everyone in the area the chance to play, and to play on a surface which is a real pleasure to use.”
What is Rugby 365?
After the Rugby World Cup in 2015, the RFU set out a legacy to invest more than £50m over a four-year period to develop 100 artificial grass pitches within England. The Rugby Football Union wanted to create accessible facilities and increase participation within the sport. It is anticipated that the Rugby 365 scheme will create over 50,000 available playing hours, enabling more training sessions and matches to take place.