Written by Chris Bentley
The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and it was all smiles at Brickfield on Saturday. It was indeed a benchmark day as Plymouth Albion opened their doors to members and the general public after a year’s virtual total lockdown.
It was also the day the nation paid its last respects and said goodbye to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. With 13m viewers watching the Windsor Castle ceremony which logically reduced numbers at Brickfield on the day, but a steady stream of some nearly 500 guests took the opportunity to attend the club to celebrate the opening of Albion’s Bunker Gym to the public and mark a first step on the return to normality.
Taking yet another step forward, Albion has posted an open invitation for one and all to be part of ‘Plymouths Biggest Ever Beer Garden’. Doors open at the event at 1400-1800 hours this Saturday with spacious pods on hand to accommodate visitors. Table service and on-site food is available.
The atmosphere is sure to go with a swing as DJ Aldo Vanuccii will be playing his chilled party vibes throughout the day. Billed as Plymouth’s Biggest Beer Garden the event is open to over 18s only and is brought to us in a collaborative partnership between Albion RFC, Dartmoor Brewery and Thatchers Gold.
Public Health England guidelines will be observed with all catering staff wearing masks and gloves. Hand sanitising stations will be provided, and the toilets will function on a one way the only system. In keeping with the NHS Track and Test system, all attendees will be asked to scan on entry. Hey ho, one suspects this will soon be a regular part of the new norm we will all become accustomed to as the Covid lockdown continues to be relaxed.
A beer garden is all part and parcel of the community life provided by our local sporting clubs, enjoyable as these events are Plymouth remains firmly focused on the game of rugby. To this end, a celebratory charity game between Welsh Charity Veterans v Armed Forces Veterans on Sat July 10th has been arranged.
Currently, some big names have signed up to play for the Welsh team including British Lions Shane Williams, Allan Bateman and James Hook (Water boy) alongside a glittering array of former internationals.
The Armed forces team features former Albion captain Chris Lowrie, together with Albion stars Dan Parkes and Gaz Evans plus Fijian international Sam Matavesi. It promises to be a cracking game and fun day for all. The charity game will be raising funds for Head4change and Rock2 Recovery. Tickets will be on sale via the website by the end of next week.
Although not the National League rugby we have missed for over a year the game on July 10th marks yet another milestone on the return to normality and brings some big-name players to Plymouth.
Adding to the colour and excitement on the day, Plymouth Raiders Cheerleaders will be performing a halftime show, which nicely leads into the alarming news that professional basketball might be forced to leave the Ocean City. A reported 200% increase in renting the Plymouth Pavilion for their games has proved too much for the Raiders to accommodate.
The Basketball Clubs Turkish owners have invested heavily in the team but are not prepared to consider the increased rental required to hire the facility. A club spokesman said that with a capacity of just 1,500 spectators, the increased rent required in the future is just not economically viable. One hopes a resolution can be found and the Raiders remain in town flying the flag for Plymouth around the nation as well as enriching the sporting environment of our city.
I have previously voiced the huge potential and advantage that a multi-purpose sports facility and indoor stadium development at Brickfields could bring to the city. Such a facility would doubtless prove a major asset to youth, sport and the community in general. Birmingham and Coventry have been mentioned as possible locations were Raiders forced to depart. It would be a sad day indeed if Plymouth lost the Raiders Club and an elite level basketball team.
The much-publicised initiative of a proposed European Soccer Super League hit the headlines sending shockwaves through the football community. In the event, opposing fans normally divided by their own club loyalty came together to raise a loud voice opposing the Super League plans.
I found this somewhat comforting as the Great British Public stood up to shout down the ‘Fat Cat’ money men who were seeking an American style closed shop franchised sporting model. The Euro Super League initiative came out of the blue like a shooting star. Just as quickly it crashed and burned under the pressure exerted by soccer rank and file supporters.
Promotion and the threat of relegation figured loudly in the protests voiced by the fans. I say this because I suspect our rugby fathers have not ruled out the notion of a European Super League and even a World Club Championship.
It is a brave new world we are all entering post-Covid. How welcoming and reassuring it will be to the fabric of our society when Plymouth Albion once again take the field in competitive league action. In the interim, we have the Beer Garden this Saturday and that big charity rugby game on July 10th giving us all a chance to stress test the site, welcome new suppliers and sponsors in addition to providing a great day out for the sport starved fans of the city – Early Bird Tickets to the rugby for just £5. Mmmm… sounds familiar, just maybe this is the beginning of the end of Covid and a welcome return to the sporting world we knew and loved prior to the pandemic.