Plymstock Albion Oaks future is looking good
- Credit: Archant
After a 30-year endurance test to get established, a rugby club in the South Hams is now shaping itself as a major regional player, writes James Brett
Formed just three decades ago with no pitch, no playing kit and no revenue, Plymstock Albion Oaks has seen its fortunes transformed and today has teams across all age groups. Its ladies team recently won a major event and the first team is seeking promotion.
It was during the 1984 season that players Nigel Passmore and Roy Eyers, suggested over a pint of beer that they needed their own club. Within weeks they recruited a team and for those who play at Plymstock Albion Oaks the rest is history.
Today the club, despite its name, sits on land just inside South Hams with administration for planning shared with Plymouth City Council. Both authorities have played their part in helping the club mature and move forward.
But the journey to establish the club has been an endurance test, which has taken 30 years of fund raising and community support from local councils, Sport England and the Rugby Football Union.
The first game was against Ivybridge, but with no money players had to borrow a playing kit, loan the use of a pitch and change wherever they could. The clubhouse was an old caravan.
Nigel, a city businessman known affectionately to everyone as Higgie, had a vision to develop the team into a proper club, with teams across the age spectrum and a modern clubhouse. The challenge was - in his words - colossal.
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Within five years the club moved to Horsham playing fields, where it remains today, and the council gave them the use of small changing rooms, which had initially been built for local hockey teams. More importantly they had access to permanent playing fields.
By 2000, the club had started a youth development project. Players and friends helped convert their changing room to incorporate a small kitchen, but with space at a premium a tent was erected outside to feed visiting players.
On formation the team was called Plymstock Albion. Then in 2007 the club merged with Old Plymouth Oaks and became Plymstock Albion Oaks. It attracted more members and created a new incentive to build a dedicated clubhouse.
Annual summer fetes at Horsham were among a range of fund raising initiatives.Plymstock councillor David Viney helped the club buy pitches and begin the final part of the journey towards a clubhouse.
Now Nigel, who is the chairman of the club, has been joined by President Neil Gill, who has spent years coaching youth and senior teams at the club. Between them they are shaping the club’s future with the aim of developing a first class team.
In addition to his business in Plymouth, Nigel spent many years as a referee, covering games across the country and is keen to see the club grow.
He says: “I had to approach the project in the same manner as you do in business: make a plan and stick with it. I did sometimes sit back and wonder if I was doing the right thing. It has been a struggle.
“Having secured lottery and grant funding, we have been able to build our own clubhouse, which was only possible thanks to the extraordinary efforts of those who supported the club.
“I cannot thank our supporters enough. One of our members, Nick Taylor, designed and built the club from start to finish, it has been very rewarding. But we are not finished yet, we are now planning to secure the future for the next generation.
“It truly has been small acorns to large oaks. We recently had a visit from Plymouth Albion coach Graham Dawes who has been very supportive, we have a new playing kit and our seniors are on the brink of promotion. The future looks good.”