Aiming to kick on with plans

A RUGBY club is aiming to kick its homeless status into touch thanks to Olympic legacy funding.

Wallsend Rugby Club has had to train and play across two sites but is now closer to getting its first permanent home thanks to Sport England’s Olympic legacy funding and North Tyneside Council.

Sport England has awarded the club £50,000 – from the latest round of their Protecting Playing Fields Olympic legacy fund – to help convert land next to St Peter’s Road into two high quality rugby pitches.

And the council is providing £86,000, as well as leasing the land to the club, which should guarantee the future of the pitch for decades.

Sport England’s chair Richard Lewis said: “This playing field will be a lasting sporting legacy beyond the 2012 Games for Wallsend and Tyne and Wear residents, where generations will enjoy heir first experience of sport.”

Wallsend RFC is among 61 sports clubs and community groups across England to benefit from more than £2m of funding in the second round of grants.

The club is now working to raise the remaining funds for their ambitious plans which include a new clubhouse and changing facilities at the site on St Peter’s Road.

Ryan Thirlaway, chairman of Wallsend RFC, said: “This is an exciting and pivotal time for us and we are very grateful for the support we are receiving, both financial and in terms of people’s time – many of those involved with this project are volunteers.

“As a club we have always been known as a magpie, having had to use other pitches and facilities, so this development is a major one for us and will make a huge difference to the lives of local children for many years to come.

“We’re actually looking for under 11s and under 13s to join us at the moment.

“The aim of Wallsend RFC’s management team is to develop the availability of youth rugby to extend choice and opportunities for children in an area where the current sporting infrastructure focuses on football.

“If we can deliver a great alternative, perhaps one day some of our youngsters will follow in one of our old boy’s footsteps and just like Mick Ward, play rugby for the Newcastle Falcons.

“We still have a shortfall to make our dream a reality but are working with the RFU and local community to plug this gap.”

The funding from the council is part of a Section 106 agreement between the local authority and Bellway Homes for a housing development on Kings Road called ‘The Covers’, which stipulated the funding had to be used for rugby provision as it was demonstrated there was a lack of rugby facilities in Wallsend.

Mayor Linda Arkley said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to support Wallsend RFC. We’ve been talking to the club for a number of years about how we can help them establish a new home base and the project’s now at a really exciting stage.

“However, we’d never have reached this point without the involvement of a number of committed individuals and organisations. It shows what can be achieved when you’re working together towards a common goal.

“In wider terms, this is going to be the latest in a series of first class sport and leisure developments that we’ve helped bring to Wallsend and it supports my commitment to widening horizons for all through culture and sport.”

The playing field will also be protected and maintained for at least 25 years, creating an enduring benefit for sport.