Stafford Butt, a long-time member of Chelmsford Rugby Club and current player for our veteran team “the Undertakers”, was selected as part of a 23 man squad for Wooden Spoon to play in the longest rugby match and subsequently elected Captain. The idea was to play for 30 hours in order to secure the Guinness World Record for the longest rugby match and to raise £100,000 for Wooden Spoon, in the process.
Wooden Spoon is the children’s charity of rugby, established in 1983 it funds around 70 projects a year to help support children facing disability or disadvantage. The charity is comprised of several regional factions, with over 400 volunteers across the UK and Northern Ireland, and each of which raise funds for causes in their own communities, as well as taking part in larger events, such as this one. Projects funded by the charity to date do not just focus on rugby but have included respite and medical treatment centres, sensory rooms, specialist playgrounds, and community based programmes.
Chelmsford Rugby Club have several members who dedicate a great deal of time to Wooden Spoon and in recent months alone, have taken part in a charity Christmas single and held a charity day with exhibition matches at Chelmsford Rugby Club, which raised more than £2,500 in a single event.
School of Hard Knocks is a charity which uses sport, and particularly rugby, to help combat long term unemployment in adult men. Since its inception in 2007, the charity has grown exponentially and, after initially working with a small group of men in Knowsley, Liverpool; the charity now runs programs all over the country for the NHS, young offender institutes, and many more.
The game was played at Hazelwood, home of the London Irish, kicking off at 11am on Sunday 25th August. The match was full contact and played under full RFU regulations and no respite was given to compensate for the heat or the hard ground; in fact, one player was taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder within the first few hours. Medics and physios were on hand with tape, ice, and a paddling pool to keep players going safely, whilst volunteers ran on energy snacks, drinks, and sun cream every time there was a break in play. With temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius, it was difficult but vital that players were kept as comfortable and hydrated as possible because they certainly gave it their all throughout.
The final score was 2154 – 1163 to the School of Hard Knocks team. Total game time was 30 hours and 30 minutes and, in that time, there were 545 tries, 290 conversions, and 4 drop goals. The squad utilised rolling substitutes to try and ensure that everyone rested but with a maximum of 23 players in the squad (before injuries), that still meant a massive amount of continuous work for every player. There was a base camp set up with camp beds and sleeping bags so that substitutes could get proper rest but in some cases, this can only have made it harder to get moving and warmed up as players suffered with seized up joints and muscles.
Anyone who has tried their hand at rugby knows that 80 minutes in the middle of winter can feel like the toughest feat, so for these men to carry on for more than 30 hours, with no more replacements than you would find on the bench for an 80 minute game, is an incredible achievement!
Subject to verification by Guinness, a new world record will be set and Wooden Spoon are well on their way to their fundraising target of £100,000. Each player has set up their own fundraising page and these have not yet been collated, so the current figure is not yet known but the monies will be distributed throughout Wooden Spoon’s branches across the UK and Ireland in order to help disabled and disadvantaged children all over the country.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Staff was not at training this week!