While the cash will be spent at Blackheath’s training base in Eltham, news of the interest-free loan puts a spotlight on some of the community work done by the world’s oldest open rugby club, which is somewhat overshadowed by other work done by its round ball neighbour at The Valley.
The interest-free loan will be topped up by a £65,000 grant from the Rugby Football Union aimed at funding Rugby World Cup legacy work, with another £35,000 coming from Greenwich University.
Blackheath aim to spend the money on improving its main pitch at Eltham to help it withstand greater usage, such as being able to host other clubs’ matches. Club bosses hope revenue from increased usage will help the side increase participation among men, women and children; while better training facilities will also help it increase the calibre of players the side attracts.
The club’s community work includes tag rugby sessions and summer camps for children from Charlton Triangle Homes, whose Cherry Orchard Estate is next door to the Rectory Field.
Other work includes targeting schools in the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, as well as working with male and female university students in the area.
Blackheath was a founder member of the Football Association in 1863 before walking out within weeks over plans to outlaw “hacking”. It became a founder member of the RFU eight years later, and has been based at the Rectory Field in 1883.
The club still attracts healthy crowds to the Rectory Field, where it plays in National League 1, the third tier of English rugby.
A trip to the Rec for a match is one of SE London’s most idiosyncratic but fun afternoons out (at least if you’re used to watching soccer, anyway…). You may be thrown at first by hearing well-spoken chaps bellow out “CLUB!”, but you’ll soon be reassured by the friendly crowd and the ability to enjoy a drink while watching a game.
The next home match is against Old Albanian on 10 January at 3pm.