Every great sports team deserves a great clubhouse – and that’s exactly what one local rugby team have got, thanks to Mastercard.
The Mastercard Team Award club makeover has been won by Mitcham & Carshalton RUFC – and the chairman has the bruises to prove it!
The Surrey-based outfit has been rewarded for its outstanding efforts in bringing the local community together through rugby. The prize was a much needed refurbishment of the clubhouse, which was carried out by a dedicated Mastercard install team.
Neil Back, England’s Rugby World Cup 2003-winning flanker, was the surprise guest as players and their families were treated to their first look at the new facilities.
The former Leicester and England captain presented club official Keir Waller with a signed ball to mark the occasion – then promptly flattened him with a tackle.
“I was there to welcome the players to their new clubhouse,” says Back. “As I handed the ball to the chairman, I thought it would be a good idea to rugby-tackle him into the sofa!
“The Mastercard team worked incredibly hard during the week on the refurb, and did an excellent job in such a short space of time.
“I told the club how impressed I’d been with them. I said they truly are champions for what they do in the community, and for the community.”
This award represents the culmination of a remarkable turnaround for the club, which has been in existence for over 80 years but which nearly went out of business 18 months ago.
In particular, vandalism to its property was causing severe financial headaches. Waller says: “At one point we were unable to host fixtures, and couldn’t even watch rugby matches on the clubhouse television because we couldn’t get in. It was a health and safety risk.”
Senior players got together to start a GoFundMe page to raise £2,000 for essential repairs and rent. The campaign netted £6,570.
“It was the local community who helped us through our darkest hour,” says Waller.
Mitcham and Carshalton in numbers
- £6,570 - The amount raised by the local community on the club’s GoFundMe page to help with the repairs and keep the club afloat
- 26 - Most wins in a season, in 1953
- 43-0 - Score in its first friendly of the season, against CSSC Barbarians on September 7
- 32 - Regular players on the books – this has doubled in the past year
Congratulations to Mitcham & Carshalton Rugby Club.
Together everything is possible.
That show of support was testament to just how valuable the club has been to the surrounding area for years.
Bar manager Kat Goldsmith says: “Mitcham & Carshalton gives back to our local community in many ways. Rugby is a fantastic outlet for children who may be struggling in other aspects of their lives.
“Within the club we also have a programme where we allow young adults with additional needs to help behind the bar. This gives them self-confidence, as well as skills they’ll need to get a job when the time comes.”
Vice-chairman Ben Wood adds: “Having a rugby club in a staunchly football district has its challenges, but we offer a place where young people can come in an area that doesn’t offer a lot for them to do.”
That’s something that resonates with Back, whose own rugby playing days began at Earlsdon in Coventry.
He says: “Without my club I wouldn’t be speaking to you now, or have had the chance to be a World Cup winner. I know how important these clubs can be to the local community.
“As I was leaving Mitcham & Carshalton on that Sunday afternoon, they were setting up for a children’s party. There’s no way that could have happened in the old clubhouse – it wouldn’t have been safe for young kids.
“This is what the renovation was all about: to give back to the community and engage with them and get more people there. And here it was happening on day one.
“The transformation of their clubhouse gives them the opportunity to attract people back to the club. Now they can go from strength to strength.”
Chairman Keir Waller on the club’s win
“Winning this award means everything to a small club like ours. Around 18 months ago it seemed to be in terminal decline. We’d had an arson attack, and somebody had tried to crowbar a door open to break in.
“The values of rugby are incredible. You learn self-discipline, reliance, teamwork, leadership skills, commitment. I’ve gone from first coming along as a nine-year-old to being chairman at just 27. I learned all of those skills through Mitcham & Carshalton.
“We want to re-establish a minis team. Due to the decline in the facilities, we’d had a dwindling number of senior players. But the more seniors you have around, the more kids you have, and the more the families want to get involved.
“Now, thanks to Mastercard and The Sun, we have a clubhouse we can truly be proud of. It gives us a wow factor that can help us attract more families and build for the future.”