Farmers raise £20,000 to help struggling Berwick Rugby Club through ingenious grain scheme

More than £20,000 has been raised to help Berwick Rugby Club overcome financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the local farming community, together with agricultural merchant McCreath Simpson & Prentice (MSP), organised a successful grain donation initiative.

The rugby club, which hosts lunches on matchdays alongside other functions including birthday parties and wedding receptions, saw its revenue streams cut off overnight as Covid-19 gripped the country back in March, with fixtures and functions cancelled and that still being the case more than seven months on.

Neil Armstrong, a local farmer and Berwick Rugby Club chairman of sponsorship, said: “Ahead of harvest, we had a brainwave to approach the local farming fraternity to generate some much-needed cash as we knew we wouldn’t be taking any function bookings or hosting any matches for the foreseeable future.

Some of the farmers involved in the grain donation initiative alongside MSP grain trader Claire Strachan, front left, Berwick Rugby Club president Anthony Spooner, foreground, and Berwick Rugby Club chairman of sponsorship and local farmer Neil Armstrong, front right.

“We put some letters together asking for a donation of a bucket of grain and were overwhelmed by the generosity from the local farming community, collecting wheat from 70 farms within a 12 to 15- mile radius of the club – with some donating two to three tonnes.

“With our main shirt sponsor MSP onboard, assisting with the storage and selling of the grain, it is anticipated that this will generate in excess of £20,000 – an absolutely fantastic amount that will probably carry the club forward for a year without any functions.”

A total of 103 tonnes of wheat was collected from the 70 farms, which MSP – the current main shirt sponsor of Berwick Rugby Club – topped up to 115 tonnes and then marketed and sold as part of its committed tonnage into Coastal Grains.

Antony Spooner, president of Berwick Rugby Club, added: “We’re incredibly thankful to the local farming community and, in particular, the six local farmers who spent a full day collecting the wheat from all of the farms in their own tractors and trailers.

"The farmers’ support has ensured that same matchday buzz and hospitality can be enjoyed once these challenging times are over and things are back to normal.”

Claire Strachan, grain trader at MSP, said: “When we heard about this initiative, we were only too happy to support Berwick Rugby Club.”

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