Future of rugby club in jeopardy 

Players invited to Sunday meeting to determine next steps

After pulling the plug mid-season in 2004 due to insurance issues, the Whistler Hoary Marmots Rugby Football Club is struggling to kick off a 2005 season.

The club is currently in debt after the team was forced to cancel the 15 th annual Whistler Sevens tournament last July. That event typically raises enough money to pay for field time and other team costs, allowing players to participate for a nominal fee.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler would typically insure rugby through their Sport B.C. affiliation, but as of March 31 of 2004 Sport B.C. had dropped insurance for rugby. The team did not have enough money to purchase insurance from the B.C. Rugby Union, and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

John Gideon, the captain of the club for the past six seasons, is looking for a sponsor and the support of players to save the season. The club is hosting an open meeting this Sunday, May 29 at Black’s Pub, starting at 7 p.m. All interested players, coaches and sponsors are asked to come out to help determine the level of interest in the community and plan fundraisers.

"The fact is we’re looking for an 11 th hour sponsor to come out and help us out, or otherwise it’s going to be touch and go whether we have a rugby club any more," said Gideon.

"We get stronger each year, and last year was probably our strongest team in a very long time. It sucks that we’ve been improving and growing with every year and yet we’re now on the verge of extinction."

To get insurance from B.C. Rugby Union, the Marmots will need to pay $550 a season to register, plus $40 per player. The club will also need to come up with 25 per cent of field fees up front.

Player fees will be kept at $40, which will cover insurance, and Gideon believes the team’s debts and other expenses can be covered through fundraisers and by hosting the Whistler Sevens tournament – if there is enough interest.

"If we get some interest and someone steps forward to help us out, we could start practising the next week," said Gideon. "We haven’t even been able to have functions and fundraiser events because we don’t even know if there is going to be a team. If you’re serious about playing rugby this year, Sunday is when you should show yourself."

Gideon hopes to line up as many as 10 games this year, as well as participate in tournaments like the annual Williams Lake Rugby Tournament.

The club hosts exhibition games with Lower Mainland teams during the summer, as well as a seven-a-side tournament in July for men’s and women’s teams.

Because of the transient nature of Whistler, the club is traditionally a mish-mash of different nationalities – and with British, Australian and New Zealander players in town, Whistler often surprises its opponents. In 2001 the Marmots won a seven-a-side tournament at SFU in the ‘B’ division as well as the Whistler tournament. Last season they won an exhibition home game against the Rowers RFC of Vancouver, and were preparing to host other clubs when the season was cancelled.

The Hoary Marmots are also a teaching club, and have moulded men and women that are new to the game into solid starters over the years. All you need to play are cleats, shorts, and a sense of fun and adventure.

The club practises twice a week, Thursday and Friday, and plays in optional tournaments and games on the weekends. Social members are also welcome.

If you can’t be at Black’s on Sunday but would like to join or support the club in 2005, contact John Gideon at 604-935-4966 or zammo3@excite.com.

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