Impact of Covid-19 on Clevedon CC, Clevedon RFC and Clevedon United

Neil Tucker, Paul Jenkins and Stuart Henley during the zoom meeting

Neil Tucker, Paul Jenkins and Stuart Henley during the zoom meeting with Sports Reporter Josh Thomas. - Credit: Josh Thomas

As we look back on the last year of grassroots sports, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on clubs up and down the country.

For three chairmans, and friends, from three sporting sides in Clevedon, each and every team has been impacted in different ways.

Clevedon Cricket Club have recently returned to action, following last season’s delayed campaign, and can look forward to the league starting on the first weekend of May.

Clevedon United have ensured mixed success and have suffered back-to-back null and void seasons as a result of consecutive lockdowns and the rise of COVID-19 cases.

But Clevedon RFC are probably the biggest of the three to have suffered the most, as they have yet to take the field since March 16, 2020, when they beat Midsomer 16-8.

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However, the bond between the three club, and in particular the relationship between each of them, has grown during the pandemic.

Cricket Congresbury 2nds V Clevedon 2nds. Paul Jenkins batting for Clevedon.6-7-02

Cricket Congresbury seconds vs Clevedon seconds with Paul Jenkins batting for Clevedon. - Credit: The Weston Mercury

Clevedon CC chairman Paul Jenkins has held the role for the last 11 years and been a member of the club for the last 43 years, since moving from Swansea when he was just 10-years-old.

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“We were lucky to play a part of the season last year but the reality is we’ve been hit across the place. Like any business, the social aspect of it, has been massive,” he said.

“People haven’t been able to congregate together. We haven’t been able to share football, cricket and rugby stories because that’s the social fabric of any of our clubs.

“We all enjoy playing, and watching, on a Saturday, going in the bar and talking complete rubbish and how good we were many years ago.

“That’s what we do, whether our children are crawling amongst our feet or who have grown up in the clubs and drinking next to us.

“It’s affected the club financially and from a social fabric point of view massively.”

A total of 1.4 miles separate the three venues, where at times players could be seen swapping kits and playing in different sports.

They can also be seen being members of all three clubs and going into the bar to have drinks following the end of their games.

Clevedon RFC Chairman Neil Tucker

Clevedon RFC Chairman Neil Tucker smiles for the camera. - Credit: Neil Tucker

“The problem we have had with the rugby is you cannot play without having close contact to somebody,” said Neil Tucker, who has been with Clevedon RFC for the last 30 years, and served the last three as chairman.

“When they stopped it, we were told it would be our last game for a couple of months at least. Then when the guidelines started to come out we were given a roadmap by the RFU, A to F, and you have to work through it.

“For months you had to train in twos, then in fours, then in sixes. You couldn’t share a ball, cones, stand on the same piece of grass as somebody else.

“It was just really difficult to manage. We had two new coaches (David Owen and Nick George) employed and were really keen to get going but they couldn’t.

“The problem we were getting with the rugby was people were starting to lose a bit of interest because they weren’t being allowed to train they wanted to or the way they used to.”

However, football has returned, following consecutive null and void seasons, with Clevedon United having been put in a round-robin competition, set up by the Somerset League, alongside Nailsea United, Nailsea & Tickenham and Worle.

And their two teams, Clevedon United KV and Clevedon United KV Reserves, have resumed action in the Weston & District League, with the committee setting up games in midweek and on Saturday, including double headers, to ensure they can get their season finished by the end of May/early June.

“It’s a totally different ball game to Rugby. That’s where 'Tucks' (Neil Tucker) has probably faced so many different issues around Covid, and the restrictions, and limitations and train and what you can do with your sport,” said Stuart Henley, who has been chairman for the last seven and half years and held various roles on the committee over 20 years and been a member over 40 years.

“Clearly the FA and the leagues we have played under, their hands have always been tied because they have been waiting for the messages to come down from the FA so they can relay the information into the clubs.

“That’s been slow at times and it’s been slow for reasons and I get the reasons behind it.

“In the FA’s defence there has always been the step programme in place to get football back in a position where you can actually start training, which is great.

“I feel for the rugby and it’s like Paul (Jenkins) with cricket, I don’t know why cricket was ever stopped through Covid because it’s the most socially distanced sport on the planet.”

But for all three sides they will head into the future more excited than ever.

Full of hope and belief of being able to resume their sport again, in front of fans and without any restrictions.

Despite more needing to be done to tackle the virus, all three men have set their sights on ensuring they will look back on this period knowing that it hasn’t defined their clubs.

In fact it’s only strengthened, and helped each and every one of their sides to grow, as they look to prepare for the next generation.

“It’s the only way, we can all sit here and be negative but there’s no point, we know there is an end to this,” added Tucker.

“There’s an end goal, we just have to get there and remain, in our lives, work lives, and sporting lives, as positive as we can because the three of us, whether we want to be or not, are role models for the other 200-300 members we have in our club and the children.

“They look to us for answers because they invest their money in the club every year to become a member.

“We have to stay positive, upbeat as much as we can and we are there for them, reach out to them to help these guys out. We just have to see this through, and we will see this through.”

Clevedon United chairman Stuart Henley

All smiles for Clevedon United chairman Stuart Henley as he poses for the camera. - Credit: Stu Henley

Henley continued: “I guess what gives us hope is we just to keep business as usual. As much as we are playing the Covid card, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We still have good numbers turning up to training and the community need it.

“As much as we want to be part of it and keep it moving, it’s not just there for us, it’s there for us to provide a service for people to enjoy it."

Jenkins, who also coaches the ladies softball team, added: “On the group chats the excitement from the guys and girls and all the chats going on that they still want to play sport.

“Not only that, they want to have a drink at the club. They want to have nice summer evenings out. Everything’s going in the right direction.

“It takes people like us three. The easiest thing throughout Covid would have been put our folders down and concentrate on our families, work life and the rest of it.

“But we didn’t. We want the clubs to be the best they can be and we all put the hours in behind the scenes to make sure the clubs are still here.

“It’s not creating our personal legacies. I remember the old boys sitting on the edge of the bar and I want to be one of those old boys sat at the bar in 30 years time with it still there.

“The cricket is still good and there are more children coming through and the three of us can sit in each other’s bar and go 'we did alright didn’t we boys, back in the day'. The place we helped create is still here.”

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