It’s 16 months since Plymouth Albion entered administration and the assets were acquired by local businessmen and ex-Albion players Bruce Priday and Dave Venables.
The club’s first season under its new owners was a highly successful one, with an unexpected second-place finish and only one home defeat – to the undisputed leaders Hartpury College who achieved promotion to the Greene King IPA Championship.
Off the field, the business side of the club was restructured. Ali Hannaford, of global food production company Paramount 21, agreed to act as chairman and David Gabbitass, former senior partner of Wolferstans Solicitors in Plymouth, as president.
Now, former St Mellion International Resort director Martin Watson has been recruited as managing director, bringing with him more than 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Further key appointments have been made in the community and commercial departments.
Former Albion player of the year Eoghan Grace has returned to boost the club’s playing strength and to relaunch Albion’s work in the community programme. The back row forward is working alongside another former player Steve Pooley to take rugby and its core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship into primary schools across Plymouth. Four schools have already signed up for Albion’s rugby coaching programme for the year ahead.
Grace and Pooley were also instrumental in setting up summer camps that attracted more than 100 boys and girls aged six to 15 years and in strengthening community links with six local rugby clubs.
This year Pooley and Albion board member Kevin Norris successfully launched rugby academies in partnership with City College Plymouth, Plymouth Studio School and a number of sixth forms, as well as with Plymouth Marjon University. The academies offer students regular training sessions with qualified Albion coaches and a chance to represent the club at colts level.
Pooley and Norris are also working closely with partners Babcock to promote its STEM agenda, encouraging young people to connect with science, technology, engineering and maths. Albion players will be acting as STEM ambassadors and the club has a number of events planned, including a family day at the first home game of the season on Saturday, September 9, and a schools’ STEM day.
New commercial manager Mike Scott is pushing ahead with maximising commercial opportunities and has already secured a number of high profile deals.
Facilities have been upgraded which has helped to boost conference bookings to an average of one per week, for example, the club hosted an event this week for 120 Sky delegates.
Last season, match attendances more than doubled from the first to the last game, and season tickets sales for 2017-18 are already more than 20 per cent ahead of this time last year.
This Sunday, head coach Kieran Hallett’s Plymouth Albion team will face Redruth RFC in a pre-season friendly at the Brickfields. Kick off is at 1pm and entry costs £5, with under-16s free with a paying adult.