PLANS for a new Community Sports Ground at Streatham-Croydon Rugby Club in Thornton Heath will become reality in March with a boost to funds of a £90,000 grant from the Rugby Football Union's Capital Investment Programme.
The latest grant will ensure that work can begin on the development of the club's dilapidated changing rooms and stand at the end of March and will be completed in time for the new season starting in September.
Streatham-Croydon's success in earning funding for the project has come from displaying a commitment to working with the local community and increasing the number of people playing rugby across all age groups and genders.
The club is open to schools, charities and community groups which can use the pitches for games. It has a growing women's section and numbers at mini and junior levels have increased from 30 to 110 in two years.
Success off the pitch has been reflected on the pitch with the men's first-team gaining successive promotions over the last two years and they currently lie a healthy fourth in a very competitive Surrey Two league.
Total funding for this first phase of the project totals £270,000 and will centre on the club's current changing rooms and stand.
Phase two will start with work to develop the old squash courts into more changing facilities and in phase three the Victorian clubhouse will receive a much-needed overhaul to provide more community facilities.
Grants from Sita Waste (£60,000), the Mayor's Legacy Fund (£70,000) and Sport England (£50,000) have given the club the funds they need for the project to go ahead. Jeff Greenleaf, the club's head coach and the driving force behind the development plans, highlighted the contribution of Steve O'Connell to winning £70,000 from the Mayor's Legacy Fund, one of the biggest grants to be given from the fund.
"Steve has been very supportive of the project and knows the importance of the development to the local community," said Greenleaf. "We've worked very hard to recruit new players and it is obvious to anyone that the facilities needed to improve if we are going to keep players, develop them and keep growing. Boris Johnson has also visited the club when we hosted the School of Hard Knocks, helping unemployed people get fit, get into rugby and get jobs, so he has seen the benefit of rugby and what it can give back to the local community."
And the club has also worked in partnership with the Croydon Sport for Social Change Network in gaining the funding for the development.
"Rob Hardy and Brian Dickens of the SSCN have been key in proving that our work with the community is a long-term aim and that the facilities will benefit the community as a whole," added Greenleaf.
"Streatham-Croydon was once one of the biggest clubs in the country; the talent that lies untapped in the local community can help it return to the London leagues at least."
Rick Bruin, the RFU's area facilities manager, said: "Streatham-Croydon is a prime example of a thriving community rugby club, whose playing and coaching numbers had outstripped their existing facilities.
"There is a direct relationship between quality of facilities and participation levels. Improving the quality of facilities for rugby makes it more likely that people will participate and stay involved in the game."