Carlisle Rugby Club
Carlisle Rugby Club enjoyed a year to remember in 2017 as they claimed a league and cup double for the first time in their history. Sport in Profile caught up with Chairman Barry Earl to gain an insight into their success.
SIP: How long have you been involved and what first attracted you to the club?
BE: I’ve been involved with the club since moving to Carlisle from Edinburgh in November 2007. Originally from Workington in West Cumbria I moved to Edinburgh in 2002 for university and came back to be closer to home and to move in with my then girlfriend, now wife, Joanne.
When I arrived at the club I knew no one at all and despite that instantly felt welcomed by the coaches and players, since then I’ve never looked back. I played for seven seasons at the club and had to finish in 2016 because of injuries so when the opportunity to influence the clubs future came around in that summer I jumped at it and was elected as Chairman.
SIP: What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your role?
BE: The most challenging aspect is getting a volunteer team large enough to do everything you want to do for the club. We are very luck at Carlisle with the number of volunteers we have but anyone who’s involved in a club like ours knows that you could always do with additional hands who are prepared to muck in and contribute to the ultimate goal which is to provide good facilities for members and allow our youth and senior sections to enjoy their rugby.
My first season was very rewarding, because of the recovery effort needed at the club following the devastating floods of December 2015 where our clubhouse was completely ruined I got to oversee a huge transition in a short space of time.
The clubhouse was completely reinstated with the help of local contractors and volunteers who were organised up by a truly inspirational volunteer of ours, Barry Israel. There were many other helpers involved, far too many to mention but we will always be grateful for the time they spent putting the club back together again.
SIP: How’s the general mood down at the club at the moment?
BE: It’s very positive, we have a thriving youth section with around 250 children playing weekly rugby, a growing women’s section and two men’s sides who are competitive. The first team gained promotion last season and the step us is noticeable to all of the lads who have played this year. I honestly believe that after a season in Level 6 the team will settle, get to grips with the standard and what is required to finish games off and we’ll be up at the top end of the table rather than being in the middle.
SIP: How would you say 2017 has gone for the club?
BE: Amazingly well, as I said we’ve re-instated the clubhouse, the 1st XV won a league and cup double for the first time in our history, the under 18’s won the county cup and the number of local companies who have come on board to help us recover financially from the devastating floods in December 2015 has been overwhelming.
Special thank you’s must go to a number of sponsors who have made significant contributions in the last two years in return for various sponsorship packages; these include BPK, PK Engineering, Premier Electrical, Thomas Graham, Lakeland Minerals, SBS Cumbria, Carr’s Group Ltd, Ceramic Tile Systems and WM Coulthard.
SIP: What are your plans for 2018?
BE: The club’s main goal is to establish a new clubhouse facility which is flood resilient and will safeguard our facilities against the scenarios of a repeat of the 2005 and 2015 floods which completely ruined our club. At the moment, we have a Clubhouse Steering Group which is chaired by Richard Percival, an ex-club captain and current Director of Carigiet & Cowen, who are assessing the options available to us. They are currently in liaison with the RFU and Sport England to try and plot the best way forward with the finances we have and may be able to access through various grant schemes which we have looked at and enquired about.
SIP: How important is youth development to the club?
BE: It’s hugely important, and not only for the club’s future prospects but for all of the youth players who play at the club. I’m a huge believer that Rugby teaches you some great values at a young age, values which will stay with you throughout life like Respect, Teamwork and Discipline.
When players do come all the way through and progress to senior rugby it’s absolutely fantastic too. Out of our current 1st XV only one of our regular players didn’t come through our youth section which says so much for all the hard work the youth coaches, volunteers and team managers put in.
SIP: Would you consider yours to be a community club?
BE: Undoubtedly, with the amount of youth players, local community groups and Carlisle United fans that use our facilities it would be hard for anyone to argue that we aren’t the most established community sports club in the city.
In addition to the above mentioned groups we also have a great relationship with the Carlisle Squash Club who are another great community club who again use our facilities because of the strong ties between our two clubs.
SIP: Have you any advice for people interested in getting involved in the club?
BE: Yeah, if you have an interest in a particular area whether it be coaching, team or event management, fundraising, sponsorship, physiotherapy and want to gain experience in that area whilst helping out and having a whole load of fun with some great people contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll gladly meet up with you to discuss how we can get you involved.
SIP: What do you believe could be some of the biggest challenges the club may face in the next five years?
BE: There’ll be many on and off the field challenges. On the field I think there is always the threat that clubs in higher leagues will look to poach your better players but that is part and parcel of the game at all levels of the sport.
I for one have never had an issue with players wanting to play at the highest level possible, in fact I think that’s the way they should be. You just have to look at how far some of our players have gone in recent years like Chris Harris and Gary Graham at the Newcastle Falcons and Matt Shields at Edinburgh to see the rewards that can be gained from testing yourself and trying to be the best you can be.
Off the field, the biggest challenge will be the new facility plan. We have to get it right at the planning stage, which is where we are now, and we have to have the support of the local business community if we are going to make a success of it and raise the required funds to make it a reality. What I would say to our members and the local community who use us, is be patient on this one. It won’t happen overnight but we have an excellent team of local professionals working together to layout the most suitable option for us.
SIP: What are the clubs ambitions for the next five years?
BE: We’d love to move up the league ladder to Level 5 rugby and have our new facilities in place for the 2020/2021 season, if that can be achieved we really will have achieved something truly great. In addition to that I want us to continue to be the warm, inviting club that I found back in 2007 which people feel comfortable at and want to spend time in.