WORTHING Rugby Club chairman Brian Vincent is positive about the club’s future in the coming years but is determined that the whole club moves forward together.
He believes the club’s first team, the Raiders, can play and be competitive in National 1, a division higher than their current 2 South level, and admits the club have looked at other sites where they could play if they ever moved away from Roundstone Lane.
Vincent insists that all 21 teams at the club are just as important as the other – from under-six upwards and wants players to go on to play at the highest possible level, while he also wants Worthing to aspire to be a community club.
Vincent, who has been at the club for 24 years and been chairman for the last two, said: “We run the club by the core values of the RFU, which are team work, respect, sportsmanship, enjoyment and discipline. Those values are core to what we are trying to do.
“Over a number of years, we have become the strongest club south of London, which is great for any local aspiring rugby player.
“We’ve re-established links with Harlequins this year and that will help players on the player path way. We will feed players into their system and they might have one or two players who they will feed down to us.
“We’ve had two players in recent years, who have gone on to bigger things. Joe Marler is in the Elite England squad and Joe Launchbury is at Wasps and has been selected for England Saxons, so that is proof that what we are doing here is working.”
On plans for the future, Vincent said: “Our ambition for the Raiders is to look for promotion. We’re very sensible and understand what is involved but, as a club, we’re very fortunate that we have grown over the years with a group of players and have grown into a competitive National 2 South side.
“I think we could be competitive in National 1 and we wouldn’t be afraid of going up but it would be quite a demand. We’d be looking at more over-night trips, going to places like Newcastle and Manchester, and we don’t pay out much – we’ve got no stars earning a great check more than anyone else.
“If we got promoted, it would mean a life change for some people. We’d be on the coach at seven in the morning and wouldn’t be back until 11 or 12 at night, so it would be quite a demand. But everyone here would want to go for it and it’s something we’re happy to be looking at.
“Can we afford to is another consideration. We’ve got no funding, so all the cash we’d have to find would be hard-earned. I was reading an article about how much teams pay out recently – a top Championship team is £1,500,000 a year, a National 1 side is £250,000 and a National 2 South team is £150,000. I can tell everyone that we aren’t paying anything out near £150,000, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Whatever we do, we’ll be very sensible about.”
On the possible change of home location from the club’s Roundstone Lane, Vincent said: “We’re not going to sell our site just to provide for the first team as the club is for all our sides. Our under-six team is just as important as the Raiders, so the challenge is to get the balance right.
“Our land could be sold for housing, so we’re looking at the possibility of having to move.
“People have said we’d be mad to move from what we’ve got here but we’re ambitious.
“We’ve been at Roundstone Lane for 37 years. It’s 23½ acres at the moment but it’s at bursting point with the amount of teams we have. We need something bigger and have one or two sites in mind.
“Our ambition is to see the club grow and see if we can get regular crowds for Raiders of 1,200 to 1,300.
“We want to do what’s right for the club, though. If an individual came along with a case full of money, I would not want to take it.
“Rich benefactors come and go. What would happen when he leaves the club? All our cash has got to be hard-earned.”
On the community aspect, Vincent said: “We want to look at becoming a community club. We’ve got three apprentices from Worthing College at the moment, who go around local schools coaching and we want to increase that to six to eight for next year. It’s 20 hours a week, so they can also work part-time.
“We’d also want to run courses and this would all raise our profile in the community. We’ll look at how Brighton & Hove Albion and Sussex County Cricket Club run things and see what we can do.
“We’ve already got an academy for Raiders, where we welcome guest players to come and play in a match, so they get an insight into playing at the highest level and that was how we got Alex Wilcockson, who is now a first-team player.”
The future looks promising for Worthing and Vincent is also determined to take advantage of the buzz from the World Cup being in England in 2015.