It’s Rugby World Cup month… and to celebrate we focus on the uplifting story of Moseley, the comeback club seeking to put Birmingham on the Premiership map
All the attention this month is on the Rugby World Cup, especially after the tournament kicked off in such style in Birmingham with matches at Villa Park featuring the southern hemisphere powerhouse teams of South Africa and Australia. But behind the scenes, away from the razzmatazz of the All Blacks hakas and the high-profile stars of the Home Nations, there’s another rugby revolution bubbling nicely in our city. Actually, it’s more of a revival than a revolution, and it’s seeing one of the most historic names of the British club scene returning to where it belongs. So… welcome back to the men of Moseley! In the days long before the game turned professional Moseley was one of the clubs in the vanguard of English rugby with players earning prized caps for their country over many years. Then hard times hit and Moseley almost faded from sight. If you were going to make a football analogy, you could say it’d be a bit like Leeds United – but without quite the scandal that engulfed the Yorkshire club!
So, this month of all months is the perfect time for Moseley to show off its ‘new clothes’ with its award-winning £3.6 million stand and development at Billesley Common – part of South Birmingham Sports Village. It took the club 15 years to raise the money for the project which features a covered two-storey 720-seat grandstand, changing rooms complex, a 320-seat corporate banqueting suite, club bar, meeting rooms and modern kitchens and a six-rink international indoor bowls centre. Last month, the club’s hard work was recognised when the scheme was named Development of the Year at the National Rugby Awards at Twickenham. The development is the result of Moseley coming together with the city council and Birmingham Indoor Bowls Club as part of the Sports Village which also encompasses football, cricket and tennis and provides a focus for community sport for residents in the area. For Moseley, currently in rugby’s Championship, the aim is to move up from the second tier of the sport to become firmly established in the Premiership by 2020. “It’s crazy that a city the size of Birmingham doesn’t have a Premiership rugby club, “ commented commercial director Bruce Thomas. “We aim to change that by bringing top class rugby here within five years. But more than that, we are also importantly at the centre of regenerating sport for the community in this part of the city.”
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
As part of that brief, the club is the focal point for hundreds of keen rugby players through its junior, youth and ladies teams. The Moseley Community Foundation charity, in conjunction with Sport England, sends its coaches to provide training in rugby and general sports to schools and social clubs across the region – coaching more than 10,000 youngsters each year. It runs a Player Partnership Programme with Bournville College for 16 to 19-year-olds. And the club also works with a raft of organisations, such as the Valley Riverside Project, to enhance the local environment. Moseley was also chosen to host season seven of Sky TV’s School of Hard Knocks series, fronted by local World Cup winner Will Greenwood and Scott Quinnell. It’s all a bit different from back in the day when the club was founded in 1873 by members of Havelock Cricket Club who were searching for a winter sport to play! Within 10 years they were playing rugby at the Reddings, where the club stayed for 120 years before being forced to sell the ground for housing development to pay off debts. After five years based at the University of Birmingham, the club moved to Billesley Common in 2005. Club chairman and local businessman Dave Warren said: “A huge amount of work has gone in to bring Moseley to the point it is now, with a fantastic base as part of a wider and exciting sporting initiative for the area and the community. We fully intend to put this area of Birmingham on the map for top class rugby and sport in general. There’s exciting times ahead…”