It’s the dawn of a new era at the Bedford Blues as their women’s team prepares to kick off their debut season with a home game at the iconic rugby ground at Goldington Road on 10 October.
Bedford Blues Women formed in January 2020 and, over the last 18 months, the 35 women have worked relentlessly to build an inclusive space for everyone – from seasoned players to those who have never picked up a rugby ball before.
“We wanted to create a women’s team at the Blues to give our younger girls somewhere to progress to once they turned 18,” explained team coach, Mark Stapley.
“When we hosted the England v Italy women’s international match at Goldington Road [in 2019], it generated enormous support and we wanted to create a legacy from that event,” explained Gareth Alred, Bedford Blues’ chief operating officer.
Creating that legacy fell to coach Mark, who worked with Ian Rennard, development officer at the RFU, to put together a women’s rugby training session in Bedford.
With a little bit of help from the Red Roses, the Warrior sessions were a great success and became the foundation for the new team.
“We’re really excited to be playing our first competitive match at the Blues’ home ground at Goldington Road,” said team manager, Emily Finney.
“It’s one of three games this season that we’ll be playing there and we are really looking forward to drawing a crowd of existing fans and those who are new to the game.”
Despite the impact of Covid on their training over the last year, Emily said that everyone in their league is in the ‘same Covid boat’, so it’s a level playing field.
“This is such a fantastic opportunity for a brand new, grassroots women’s team in the town,” said Emily.
“We want to play rugby and be role models for women and girls to see what’s possible. It’s important to us that as a team of mixed abilities we are a space for all with a love of rugby.”
Main shirt sponsorship for the Bedford Blues Women comes from Woburn Country Foods, who became involved after seeing the positive impact of women’s sport on their family.
“I first saw the tremendous benefits of woman’s rugby when my daughter Helen started playing at university,” said Andrew Davies of the family-run butchers.
“Not only in terms of her physical and mental wellbeing but also the tremendous camaraderie that developed within the team.
“As a lifelong supporter of Bedford Blues, we were delighted to be asked to become sponsors as we believe there could not be a more important time for promoting women’s sport and a healthy balanced diet. We are really looking forward to working with this enthusiastic and talented team.”
“We are thrilled to support the women’s team and women’s rugby in Bedford,” said Helen. “We wish them all the best for the season.”
If you would like to find out more about joining the Bedford Blues Women, visit their Facebook page.
“Please invite everyone you know to come along on 10 October,” said Emily.
“Let’s fill up that Bedford Blues bar and bring the Blues noise that Bedford is known for.”