Horsham Rugby Club is the latest club set to benefit from an RFU Rugby365 floodlit artificial grass pitch (AGP) with the grand-opening of the new facility taking place on Saturday.
The new facility will provide clubs across the local community with the chance to benefit from year-round rugby through the durability of the all-weather, floodlit surface.
This will enable additional training sessions and more flexibility in playing times. It is expected the pitch will increase rugby participation across clubs and community groups, further growing the sport.
In the 18 months since launching in January 2017, the RFU has opened 12 sites across the country, with a further ten to be operational for the 2018/19 season.
In excess of 1,200 teams have played on an artificial in that time, with more than 1,500 fixtures fulfilled. The facilities have also seen a footfall of over 200,000 individuals, with 4,700 hours of rugby training achieved.
The pitches are community facilities for all clubs, players and teams from across the area to benefit from and enjoy. Testament to the growth of the women’s game, one third of all bookings have involved women and girls and a third of bookings are by non-senior teams.
Horsham RFC vice chairman Richard Ordidge, said: “We are delighted that the RFU chose Horsham as the site for this wonderful new facility to encourage participation in rugby in Sussex and Surrey.
“As a successful, growing club there is high demand on our grass pitches in the winter months however the combination of overuse and waterlogged pitches has a detrimental impact on the standard of the game and the enjoyment of the players.
“The durability of the AGP will allow for continued activity throughout the year, at a consistent standard, increasing access and improving the playing experience.
RFU development director Steve Grainger said: “We have been delighted with how local communities have embraced our first phase of operational AGPs, since the first facility was completed in January 2017.
“The opportunity it has provided, to enable year round rugby has been incredibly positive.
“We have seen clubs, schools and teams from across the local areas embracing the chance to play on these world-class facilities without weather, darkness or lack of pitch access limiting their ability to enjoy this great game.
“I’m sure this will be the case for Horsham RFC, following the launch of their AGP.”
To launch the new pitch, the club are holding an all-day Festival of Rugby on Saturday to provide our mini, junior, girls, touch and senior rugby sections with the opportunity to play exhibition matches on the new surface.
The club’s 1st XV will also be playing London Exiles in their final pre-season friendly before the league season kicks off at Maidstone on Saturday, September 8.
This game starts at 4pm and immediately before kick-off Jeff Blackett, the chief disciplinary officer at the Rugby Football Union, and chairman of the Professional Game Board will formally open the pitch.