I hope you’re keeping well and staying safe.
The challenges of lockdown will be different for each of us: difficult for many, incredibly tough for some and I hope that you are each finding a way through the challenges you face as we all wait to hear news from government, hopefully on Sunday evening, as to how the current restrictions will be eased over time.
I cannot thank you enough for the way you have joined us in celebrating key workers, and especially NHS staff, who continue to do an amazing job during this crisis putting others before themselves in the fight against COVID-19. I also thank you on behalf of everyone at the Club for your support and patience as rugby, rightly, remains paused at this time.
As focus turns to how lockdown measures might be eased over coming weeks, likewise, there has been much debate regarding when, and how sport will return. There is a huge desire from government, Premiership Rugby (PRL), staff and players to recommence rugby, as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so. It is critical that the restart of rugby does not divert resources from the frontline. Public health remains the number one priority, and we must also ensure that restart is safe and appropriate for everyone involved not least players and staff.
PRL is liaising closely with the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, along with medical professionals, the RFU and other relevant bodies in developing the restart plan for rugby. We are hoping to provide more clarity soon, although details will be contingent on the outcome of discussions being held by PRL.
We know that it is important to provide a clear, simple and fair process for refunds and credits. As soon as we can provide more clarify on specific details regarding rugby restart, we will write to you to confirm details on the process.
In terms of our rugby, it is important that we prepare for each possible scenario to ensure that when we are able to return to rugby, we are ready and our squad is fit and able to perform.
Our players have been working hard at home maintaining a base level of fitness, whilst our rugby staff are doing a fantastic job supporting them with equipment being provided at home. We have developed detailed processes for a graduated return of players to training, which can be implemented once restart plans are confirmed.
The potential steps could involve players training at Farleigh in small groups under strict social distancing and hygiene protocols, we have planned for training provision both in- and out-doors, this would need to be followed by full contact training over a period of at least four weeks before playing matches. Each of these steps would only be implemented in agreement with PRL, DCMS and other relevant bodies, and when safe and appropriate to do so.
Whilst we remain unable to play matches, we hope you have been enjoying the classic games being streamed each weekend to bring the spirit of rugby back. Thousands of you have been logging on to watch past games, and this weekend we face local rivals Gloucester in the May 2015 thriller in which we scored seven tries to secure a home semi-final in the Premiership.
You will also have seen that, whilst our non-essential operations have understandably paused, the necessary work to renovate the playing surface and repair drainage systems at the Rec has commenced.
It became apparent earlier during this season that the existing drainage system had degraded sooner than anticipated, resulting in a playing surface which struggled to meet the demands of the professional game, in particular with the unprecedented wet conditions endured for many months. The drainage system is now being replaced and enhanced to provide the appropriate pitch standards required for the top-flight competitions, taking account of the Rec’s unique topography and riverside location.
The work was originally planned to take place during the summer months. However, with uncertainty around exact dates of season-recommencement, it is critical that this renovation is completed in the current period of inactivity.
We continue to invest time checking in with supporters, suppliers and partners as we all navigate this challenging period. The impact on sport and rugby will be significant, as it will be for many organisations and businesses. The Club will emerge from this crisis, and we are already turning our minds not only to what the world will look like for us, but also for our community.
We are working closely with our charitable arm, Bath Rugby Foundation, which many of you will know does amazing work in and around Bath focussing particularly on supporting children and young adults through high impact programmes in education, inclusion, employability and health. Whilst many programmes have paused during the lockdown, work is on-going supporting young people in employability and other support programmes through remote-working where possible.
Even before the impact of coronavirus, our community in Bath was experiencing significant social issues:
Life expectancy in Twerton on average 9.3 years lower than one mile away in Bear Flat
20% child poverty across the area, increasing to 35% in some areas
One of the most significant education attainment gaps in the country
Sadly, it is inevitable that the challenges within our community will increase over coming months as the impact of coronavirus deepens, whilst charitable grant funding will unavoidably be cut. Our Foundation is adapting at pace to support the most vulnerable young people in our city and to continue to be there when they need us. We are also exploring how we can work together to support the increasing need in our community over coming months.
Everyone at both the Club and the Foundation continues to do everything we can to navigate the current challenges and uncertainty. We will come through this and emerge together. We are looking forward to the day when we all come together to enjoy rugby at the Rec, which we will, as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.
I will write again soon to confirm details on the process for credits and refunds which we will launch as soon as clarity is provided regarding the current season.
Thank you for your continued support and patience at this time. Please continue to stay safe and keep well.