VTA Sport van Vrije Tijd Amsterdam is constantly looking for fun sports stories in and around Amsterdam. In that context, we asked Robert Fennis, Marketing and Communication Manager of the Amstelveense Rugby Club a number of questions.
What is your role at the Amstelveen Rugby Club?
Since this summer I am the new Marketing and Communication Manager for the club. You can think of coordinating the marketing activities, social media, internal communication, events and fundraising & sponsorships, but also setting up a digital, internal communication platform. Before I moved abroad, I played for the Lowlanders for 4 years and for ARC for 2 years. I always kept in touch with ARC, so now that I am back, I like to put my shoulders under the club once again.
Did you have to improvise a lot because of the Corona crisis?
It had quite an impact. Just like every other catering establishment, our canteen and terrace had to be decorated according to the applicable rules. In addition, all instructions from the RIVM and NOC/NSF had to be transposed. To this end, we now have our own protocol with which we inform everyone within the club and the visiting teams and visitors via the website about, for example, how we use the changing rooms and how we do our digital presence registration. In this way, we hope to have a framework in which everyone can play sports safely and enjoy a snack and drink during the 3rd half.
How many teams does Amstelveen Rugby Club have?
ARC is one of the largest rugby clubs in the Netherlands. We have grown enormously in recent years, to now more than 500 members. Part of the growth is in the growing recognition of Rugby, think of the world championships that can now be seen on Dutch TV. Such events show that there is no other sport like rugby; fast, exciting and hard, but always respectful. The love of rugby is at the top of everyone’s agenda, and that touches a nerve. This is why we now have 6 – mixed youth categories from 6 to 18 years old, soon 3 women’s teams, and 5 men’s teams including the ARC Lowlanders, as well as the ARC Wanderers, an occasional team for our most experienced gentlemen.
What are the core values at the Amstelveen Rugby Club?
ARC is known as a very open, inclusive and welcome club, where everyone can (learn to) play rugby. It isn’t a coincidence that we are popularly called ‘the international rugby club of Amsterdam’. We have a lot of expats, or expats who have stuck around, youngsters from the international school, players from Amstelveen and Amsterdam, and many who come from the region. Since 2009, the Amsterdam Lowlanders, with their LGBTIQ+ teams, have been an integral part of the club. We recently conducted a survey and you can see that friendship, sportsmanship and inclusiveness are at the top of the list when asked what makes ARC now. With us it really doesn’t matter who you love, if your heart beats for rugby as well, we love you. We live by the higher values of the sport: Integrity, Passion, Solidarity, Discipline and Respect, just like everyone else in every rugby club. That is our moral compass and we try to put it into practice in everything we do.
Are there any other activities besides rugby?
Besides rugby with 15 players per team, we also participate in tournaments where you are on the pitch with 7 or 10 players per team. And you can also play touch rugby with us, a form where you play with 6 players (M/F) per team and not tackled and instead of twice 40 minutes per half, twice 17 minutes. A rugby club is also your second family. Of course, developing our rugby talent is one of our highest priorities. But there is also room for parties. One of the famous (or infamous) rugby traditions is the 3rd half, where players of both teams, together with the visitors, drink a beer, where we eat together, sing a lot and maintain some crazy rugby traditions that really forge us together. Those moments really give you the feeling of being part of a much bigger rugby family. Mighty that is. That the love for your sport can connect everyone in such a way.
What is the ambition of Amstelveen Rugby Club looking at a period of 5 years?
We have had some headwinds for a couple of years. We are now focussing on the future and in various areas we are now developing multi-year plans to get back to the top of Dutch rugby in all ranks of the club. We are focusing on expanding our base by improving our processes and thus being able to grow sustainably. Youth is particularly important in this respect. By creating a good education for the youth we hope to reach our goal.
Is it easy to get volunteers for the Amstelveense Rugby Club?
That is a good question. Fortunately, we now have a full board again, and the core of our training and team functions have been filled, but we are still missing a few hands in various places in the training staff, the fundraising and now with Corona, the ‘hospitality staff’ that manages matches and visitors. We are recruiting for this internally from parents and players, because without volunteers, there is no sports club. And, if you read this and think: I got a couple of trades that I’m good at, please let us know!
How would you describe the atmosphere at the club?
The same survey showed that our players and parents, in addition to the rugby and rugby family, are happy with the fun, friendships and diversity within the club.
What are the highlights for the club?
Fortunately, in the more than 57 years that we have existed, there have been many highlights. We have been national champions for years, we have produced players who have played for the Dutch team, we now have our 3rd clubhouse (and what a clubhouse) and we are an open, international and inclusive club where you can be completely yourself. In 2018 we hosted the ARC Lowlanders hosted Bingham Cup, the biggest amateur rugby tournament in the world, where over 2000 players and supporters from 74 teams from 20 countries enjoyed rugby and partying for a week. That was huge. Those are some of the biggest moments. But there is also greatness in the small moments. Speaking for myself, ARC was the first place for me with lots of dangerous looking men where I didn’t have to have the idea somewhere in the back of my mind, ‘there’s a chance of getting beaten up here’. In fact, they dragged me in when I started talking about ‘feeling different’ and those dangerous looking men were the first to say, ‘Don’t you understand that you’re one of us? That was a breakthrough moment. And it wasn’t just words, I made friends here who are for life and for whom I would go through fire every day. That’s my motivation to work for the club: to make it possible for everyone who might feel ‘different’ to realise that you have a home here.
Anything else to add?
For anyone who thinks: I’d like to experience that myself; we’re starting our annual Introduction Course again on 22 September. 6 weeks long, 12 training sessions, a match, your own bit and a BBQ, for €25. Everyone aged 18+ learns the theory and the basics of the game in well-constructed training courses. Afterwards you can move on to one of our teams. More info can be found on www.playhardplayrugby.nl For all youth it is possible to train for free during the month of September to see if rugby and the club are a match. During the year there is an introduction pass that allows children to play 4 times for free and then decide to become a member.
VTA Sport van Vrije Tijd Amsterdam thanks Robert Fennis for his time and wishes everyone at the Amstelveen Rugby Club a bright and sporty future.
Interviewer Rick Verkaik.