GRASSROOTS rugby union has been as hard hit as any sport by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The community game is facing a plunge in revenue of £86 million while the RFU is having to lay off community coaches and rugby development officers as it grapples with short-term losses of £107 million.
With no prospect of meaningful matches until January at the earliest, clubs face the challenge of maintaining interest among players of all ages while making ends meet.
The Advertiser canvassed opinions of Rotherham's three amateur clubs.
We are lucky in that we got cash support from the council like other businesses did in the early days of the outbreak. We managed to sit on that and it is helping us through this period now.
We have done some revamp work through Covid. We are moving on with it but we are very much financially restrained at the minute.
Our main income is playing first XV rugby and we can't do it.
We have less outgoings in that we don't pay players but that said, we open the club to cater for training so we have to turn the lights on and off.
Our playing numbers seem OK.
We cater for six-year-olds up to the first team. The real babies haven't started yet but the ten-year-olds through to the seniors have.
As a club we normally open Monday to Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday dinner times but it is all based around training.
The players are training on Saturday and Sunday now to avoid having to use the floodlights as much to try and keep costs down.
Plus, it is a lot easier with the Covid regime because we can spread the kids out further down what we call the Meadow Fields as well as the four pitches we've got.
Dinnington's ground at Lodge Lane.
The message is that we are still here and we are buoyant. We are having to comply with all the Government guidelines, hard as it is, but we are managing to keep going.
There is half a rumour going around that the authorities are hoping for grassroots rugby to start in January, but that's all it is, a rumour.
The season keeps getting put back and put back. The chances of playing aren't very positive unfortunately, especially with the new outbreak.
Our players have been back training a few months now.
We have between 20, 30 or 40 Colts and seniors turning up on Saturday mornings to play Ready4Rugby, something put forward by the RFU which is basically ten-a-side touch rugby. That's all we can do. The juniors are training separately in midweek.
The clubhouse normally opens on just Saturdays and Sundays and although that's not the case now, we have been saving on running costs.
We did have a couple of Saturdays where we had socially distanced drinking but it didn't really work.
We are planning a refurbishment of the clubhouse. It's a good idea to get on with it while we're shut down.
Community Connect CIC, who help adults with learning disabilities, have loaned part of the land next door and turned it into a sensory garden and activity area and are using the clubhouse in midweek, so that's a good thing in these times.
Due to the commitment of both RFU coaches going into the local secondary schools together with Rotherham Titans players helping in the majority of primary schools in the borough, thereby resulting in an increase in youngsters playing rugby, we had hoped to field teams in nearly all of the age grades this season.
However, due to the fact that rugby is a contact sport, Covid-19 has meant that — apart from the Premiership — no rugby games have been played by any clubs in the country so far this season.
Like all rugby clubs, Phoenix receives weekly updates from the RFU with specific guidelines on what level of training is permitted. It was hoped, before this latest spike in infections, that competitive games would resume after Christmas.
Rugby action from Dinnington before the pandemic.
All age groups have continued to train on weekday evenings since the summer and it has been pleasing to see a steady increase in the number of 6-11 year-olds attending the Saturday morning sessions on Herringthorpe.
The ladies and girls squads train on a Monday evening while the other squads practice midweek.
Financially the club is in a reasonable position, having decided back in March to postpone major pitch renovation work that was planned for May.
As the players will not have played any competitive games for at least half the season, the club directors will obviously be looking at a reduced membership subscription for this season.
However this has to be balanced against the usual annual running costs related to any sports club such as pitch maintenance, electricity for floodlights, repayment of loans etc.
Information regarding Rotherham Phoenix's training times/contact details can be found by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org