Ultimate Rugby competition heating up

Thursday 16 March 2017 Written by: Adam

Designed to earn teams the chance of a lifetime, the competition offers local clubs the chance to play a home game at Kingston Park Stadium, home of Newcastle Falcons.

Currently locked in a three-way battle with Houghton RFC and Blaydon RFC, previous winners Hartlepool are again in contention thanks to the tireless efforts of their Club Connections ambassador, David Carson-White.

Working across the whole of Hartlepool’s membership, the volunteer has fully engaged with the Club Connections programme to ensure it is of mutual benefit to both Hartlepool and the Falcons, as he explains.

Carson-White said: “It’s not a one way thing. I know we sell a lot of tickets through the club but that comes with things like signed shirts and Falcons player visits, and we always take advantage of the things that the Falcons are offering. If you use it right it can be really good, and has been for us.

“The buy-in across the club has been really good. When we put a bus on we have been averaging around 100 tickets sold for Falcons games, and everyone wants us to try to get the game on again.”

After earning the Ultimate Rugby prize for season 2015/16, Hartlepool decided to make their day at Kingston Park Stadium into a wider club event, with both junior and senior teams playing fixtures in what proved to be the club’s biggest ever day out.

Carson-White said: “Last year we won the ultimate rugby prize and it was great that all the kids got to go up there along with one of the senior sides and have a game up at Kingston Park.

“When we came up for the day I think we brought about 500 people up with us, and it was a really good day out. All of our sides won, so everyone is keen to secure that again, and over the next two games I’ll be trying to push as many tickets as I can to get the numbers up.”

He added: “We had been fundraising for a couple of months before taking the prize, so we paid for buses for everybody, medals for all the kids who were playing, programmes and commemorative tickets, and it just made it a really special event.

“I was awarded a lifetime membership from the club for the work I did to win it, which was the biggest outing that the club has ever had. Hopefully if we win it again we can have another big day.”

Having attended two Falcons games already with groups in excess of 100 people, Hartlepool are one of a number of clubs who make trips in numbers to Kingston Park, with Carson-White using his own initiative to engage his club’s members.

He said: “What I do normally is produce my own posters making use of photos when our kids have been up there and have been mascots, and if we get to 40 or more we will put a bus on, which all helps.”

Having attended en-masse at home games against Saracens and Northampton, the next big outing for Hartlepool may have to wait until next season, but they will still be pushing to make up ground on Houghton and Blaydon.

Carson-White said: “I’m not sure when our next big trip will be. We’ve got our poster up for the Gloucester game [on April 7] and we’ve sold a few already, and I imagine the calls and texts will start up in the next couple of weeks to sort some tickets.”

The Falcons’ Club Connections programme aims to make our community clubs stronger by supporting with a variety of elements both on and off the pitch. Club ambassadors are appointed at the 50+ clubs who are on the programme, to disseminate information from the Falcons to the right people within those clubs.

Benefits of being a Club Connections club include access to up to six club development sessions across the season, a signed Falcons shirt and tickets to selected games to assist with fundraising and the opportunity to display club shirts in Kingston Park Stadium’s main West Stand.

Club ambassadors receive a free-of-charge ticket to every Falcons home game and a free fleece, while clubs also enjoy priority booking on festival entries and experience packages.

For more information about Club Connections please contact Hannah Sutheran on **hannah.sutheran@newcastle-falcons.co.uk** .

**Club Connections top ten 2016/17**

Blaydon RFC, Durham City RFC, Gateshead RFC, Hartlepool RFC, Houghton RFC, Northern RFC, Novocastrians RFC, Penrith RFC, Ponteland RFC, Westoe RFC.