WITH the relaxation of social distancing rules, the pace at Farnham Rugby Club is picking up.

Pre-season training under RFU guidelines launched with a vengeance last week with 60 senior men attending the opening Tuesday – and then 60 Academy players (under-17s and under-18s) turning up for their first Monday session at the club.

The women’s and other junior age group sessions have also been well attended.

Furthermore, the clubhouse bar – having opened up last Saturday alongside other pubs – has enjoyed a steady stream of customers who have made the most of its airy interior and spacious balcony.

Long-standing club supporter and volunteer Benji Weeks said: “I don’t know which felt better – watching four teams trot out to play on our new grounds for the first time back in 2012, or watching dozens of players make their way back to the clubhouse from the training paddock last Thursday evening.

“Both events represent the depth of Farnham’s rugby community as well as its resolve and its resilience.”

The Rugby Football Union has published a roadmap for the return to competitive rugby, including a provisional fixture list wherein sides limit travel to play matches in league ‘conferences.’

If all goes to plan, Farnham will play local rivals Camberley in their first London 1 clash on Saturday, September 5.

Farnham won promotion to London 1 last season – a season cut short by the pandemic.

The key to this success was, of course, the players and all the coaching staff from across the club who keep the conveyor belt of talented players coming through.

Many others worked tirelessly in the background, such as those who maintain the club’s impressive facilities.

And then there are those doing the administration and safeguarding for 1,000 registered playing members.

And the club’s main partners and sponsors have played an important part in helping the club deliver its ambitions.

And during the arid months of lockdown, they stepped up and continued their support.

The club are particularly indebted to their principal partner Fish Financial, a Farnham-based IFA, and to other key sponsors: Crondall-based builder NATTA; interior design and office fitters, Specific Interiors; the Hampshire and Surrey arm of estate agents Charters; and national demolition firm Keltbray.

Twenty other businesses take advertisements in regular match programmes and the members’ annual handbook and support the end-of-season tours by junior age group teams.

John Wickens, who leads the club’s commercial efforts, said: “A playing strength of 1,000 of all ages means there’s a club community of more than 5,000 local people when you consider the players’ parents, partners and siblings.

“Add to that the growing cadre of ex-players and their families, and a burgeoning group from the Farnham community who come to watch a good standard of rugby, and the club is an excellent commercial proposition for local businesses.

“But I don’t think that’s the real reason that we get the support we do.

“The club, like the game, is first and foremost about community.

“Our sponsors and advertisers want to be part of that community for the long term and as it grows, so will they.”