Hosting a brand new floodlit competition for the benefit of local rugby clubs in the North West is one of the ways in which officials of Liverpool St Helens Football Club intend putting £10,000-worth of energy credits from SSE Rugby to good use.
The oldest ‘open’ rugby club in the world has been awarded the funding after making a strong case in its submission to SSE Rugby, and Liverpool St Helens Director of Rugby Martin Jones says the £10,000 could not have arrived at a better time.
Formed in 1857 but having fallen on hard times following the advent of professionalism in 1995, Liverpool St Helens faced a number of severe financial challenges off the field before stabilising and settling into life playing in North One (West).
The club is on a sound footing now, though, and Jones said: “it couldn’t have come at a better time because we’ve been using lots of energy and have worked out it’s worth about three-and-a-half years of electricity.
“It’s not just about our past, though, it’s about what we’re trying to achieve in future and although we’re playing at a much lower level than we were 20-25 years ago, our membership is at its highest and we’re running age group teams from Under-7s right the way through to our Senior Colts and are now trying to start a women’s team.
“The money from SSE Rugby will be very useful in that respect and we are trying to be the ultimate Community Rugby club in an area that is dominated by football and rugby league. Within a small radius of us there are three Premier League football teams (Liverpool, Everton and Wigan) and four Super League teams (St Helens, Widnes, Warrington and Wigan) so you can see how hard it is for us to compete alongside those other major sports.”
Explaining the rationale behind the proposed new floodlit league, which will be part-funded by the SSE Rugby award, Jones added: “We try to appeal as a genuine community club and what we’re looking to organise is a local Merseyside and West Lancashire floodlit cup for clubs who are playing at level eight or nine in the league structure.
“Some of them might not have the facilities we are blessed with and to play under floodlights is a bit different. It will be a 10-week tournament starting in spring which should prove very popular and give clubs an incentive to bring lads through. It will also allow the members of those clubs to come along and watch some decent standard rugby.
“We want to be seen as really helping the clubs in our area and this SSE Rugby prize money will help us to do that.”
In the past, famous England players such as Fran Cotton, Mike Slemen, John Horton and Dewi Morris have donned the colours of Liverpool St Helens. And whilst the club might struggle to reach those heady heights again, the prospect of promotion back to the SSE National Leagues at some point in time is a real one.
“Liverpool St Helens had four relegations in six years not so long ago and we had to stabilise things,” Jones explained. “But we’ve done that now and in the last three seasons we’ve finished fourth, third and second in North One (West).
“We’re going well again this season and although it’s not all about league position, we are buoyant again. Of course we want to get promoted, you want to win every game, but the most important thing is to be a solid community club.”
With the backing of SSE Rugby, Liverpool St Helens are certainly doing their bit.
By Neale Harvey
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