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Bishop's Stortford rugby club chairman Colin Tilley hugely grateful to sponsors for sticking by them in the pandemic

All of the hard work making Bishop's Stortford a rugby club that is at the very heart of the community really paid off during the long uncertain months of the coronavirus lockdowns.

Being fully inclusive and providing a good environment for men, women, boys and girls to play the game has ensured generous sponsors want to be a part of things.

And those financial backers showed tremendous loyalty throughout the pandemic to help the Silver Leys club remain stable and allow it to emerge in a decent position ahead of its delayed centenary season.

Colin Tilley, 70, is in his sixth year as chairman
Colin Tilley, 70, is in his sixth year as chairman

"It's had its challenges and it's absolutely not been quiet, quite the opposite," said chairman Colin Tilley. "You've still got a clubhouse, the grass still grows so you've got to get it cut, and you've just got to maintain the whole appearance of the place.

"It's been important keeping the players onside and keeping the communication with the sponsors.

"The sponsors have been absolutely brilliant at keeping us afloat through this whole period. They've been so loyal it's unbelievable.

"We're obviously doing something right that the sponsors want to stick with us. They didn't ask for their money back and quite a few of them carried on funding us when we weren't playing.

"We managed to keep things very stable, I think that's the key word. There wasn't money to throw around by any stretch of the imagination, but we weren't on our uppers. Everything kept stable."

Stortford were able to get Government grants via East Herts Council during the coronavirus crisis while stellar work by the likes of business development manager Julie North and volunteers was also crucial.

Now attentions have turned back to the pitch as new joint head coaches Tom Coleman and Marcus Cattell look to lead the team to a successful campaign in National League 1 following their appointment as director of rugby Andy Long's replacements in spring 2020.

"We've got a new coaching team wanting to prove themselves and they've had to hold off and hold off. Now the leash is off," said Tilley, 70, who is in his sixth year as chairman having taken over from Perry Oliver.

"We took the decision to give them the job and now we've got to give them our support. We've all got confidence in them and they've shown maturity in terms of decisions they've made on players and what we invest in.

"Because they've come up through the club they know how everything works - minis, youth, colts, social rugby, ladies, the whole lot. They've got the big picture."

Tilley first walked through the door at Stortford in the late 1970s and has been associated with the club on and off ever since. The former management consultant, who worked in the sports and leisure sector, played for the club and also did youth coaching for 15 years while his son Chris played up to colts level.

He is excited about the club's future as it begins its next 100 years of developing talent being a great social destination.

"We still view ourselves primarily as a community rugby club. It's not just about the first team," said Tilley.

"Obviously the first team is the showcase as that's what attracts sponsors, players and young people coming into the game, but it's a community game and we have to support the whole spectrum."

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