Rugby is an essential part of our town so the consultation about the future of the sport in Bedford by the Marks Trust, available online at www.markstrust.org, is important.
I encourage everyone to contribute by the deadline of Thursday, October 30.
Bedford is home to many sports and many Bedfordians have achieved success at the highest levels in many of them. Each weekend, local residents take part in football, hockey, running, cricket and a multitude of other endeavours. Bedford can lay claim to being a sport-oriented town, a claim backed up by the commitment to sports science and teaching training at the University of Bedfordshire.
Yet, as a town, we do not step forward often enough to lay claim to a sport, or to embedding one deeply in our community. Rugby is one of those sports that has done so, with a range of clubs playing across the town. The Marks Trust notes that over 600 young people are registered to play rugby here and there is growing interest to broaden participation of women in rugby following England’s recent World Cup victory.
However, without change, Bedford’s potential in rugby may be unfulfilled and its future uncertain.
The consultation is seeking answers to put Bedford Rugby on a long term, sustainable basis. There are already plenty of good ideas about sharing facilities, generating new revenues to support team development and increasing participation.
Upgrading the Goldington Road facility, or finding a new location – perhaps with a wider range of facilities – is a key question.
My view is that the Blues should remain a town centre based team. The proposal of developing a new rugby centre near to the International Athletic Stadium located on Barkers Lane is an interesting one and might be a better option than the redevelopment of the Goldington Road site. A rugby centre, which should be modest in scale, could be built in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire and contain facilities to promote sports management and sports science.
Bedford residents, rugby players, supporters, and the University working together with ambition can make a big change happen. Be confident.