Published: 06:00, 15 October 2020
Martyn Beaumont fears that Dover Sharks could end up playing no competitive matches at all this season because of Covid-19, writes Kevin Redsull.
Beaumont, the club’s head of rugby, was reacting to the announcement by the RFU that, because of the pandemic, they had made “the difficult decision” not to allow any adult merit league or age grade competitions to take place before January at the earliest.
The Sharks play in London 2 South East and Beaumont said: “We had resigned ourselves in pre-season that it would be a slow and gradual progression back to rugby, and that January would be the most realistic option.
“However, I feel that is still being optimistic and I wouldn’t be surprised if league rugby is eventually suspended for the season.
“I am pleased that the RFU have left it open for friendly matches to occur at some point.”
And Beaumont, who rejoined the Sharks as 1st XV player-coach from Canterbury in January 2017, added: “I see this as being a situation that can be looked upon either as disastrous for the club or as an opportunity - and the latter is the way we are approaching it.
“We are using the time to develop the whole club - seniors, juniors, girls’ sections and minis – and having fun while we are doing it!
“We started pre-season training in July with one session a week. We then increased that to twice-a-week in mid-August and the sessions have been very positive. Our mini and junior sections started training again three weeks ago and, again, they have been nothing but positive.
“Although I don’t necessarily like the fact we can’t play contact rugby, playing ‘touch rugby’ helps to develop the skills which will ultimately improve the rugby we play.
“We have also seen a return of some of our younger players who are keen to improve their skills without the risk of contact.”
With all that said however, Beaumont doesn’t try to conceal some of the negative effects that Covid-19 is having on the Sharks, and on hundreds of other junior clubs up and down the country.
“The ramifications are more financial than anything,” he said. “The club survives on membership, which is slightly down.
“Sponsorship and bar revenue are also key and without our top teams performing they are hit. Luncheons cannot happen and big fundraising functions have also been cancelled. This is worrying and something that is now at the forefront of our thinking but we have made good decisions so far to keep the club afloat.
“And from a player perspective we have yet to see any major issues. The attitude of our squads has been great, they have understood what is happening and been supportive of all that we are doing.
“Some players may drift away but hopefully not and, with the new league structure due to start in the 2021-22 season, this current season is relatively meaningless anyway so it could produce a really positive and refreshing start to rugby next year.
“Dover Sharks are a real community club and we have a fantastic group of players, parents, and supporters who are all chipping in to ensure that, despite Covid-19, we are continuing to move forward. So, after being worried about the future of rugby at all levels back in May and June, I am now extremely optimistic about the future.”