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Club calls for more support in big time

Otley Rugby Union Club secretary Marc Lawrence is calling on the town's citizens to back the first team in greater numbers next season.

The club won promotion from Jewson National League One to Allied Dunbar Premiership two - the national second division - at the weekend, and Lawrence said: "I don't think the people of Otley realise our standing in the sport.

"Next season we will be among the top 20 rugby union clubs in the country, and we are still trying to get more people through the gate. Our average home attendance is about 500."

Otley's chairman of selectors Gerry Matthewman at least knows the club have more time to prepare than the last time they were promoted to the national second division in 1992-93.

"We weren't expecting to go up that season," he said. "We won our last match and Havant, who were two points ahead of us, surprisingly lost at Aspatria.

"And there were strict rules on the recruitment of players in those days. You had to have a three-month registration period so it was difficult to recruit.

"But even so we won quite a few games in the first half of the season by playing an open brand of rugby that surprised quite a few.

"But when we got some injuries to key men we hadn't the strength in depth to survive, although our fate wasn't decided until the closing weeks.

"This time we have more time, and the key to our success was the 13 players we recruited last summer.

"When we got injuries this time there was more strength in depth.

"We are looking forward to the challenge next season, whereas maybe there have been some people in the club who didn't want us to get promoted because they thought we would get hammered.

"Manchester and Henley, who went up last season, have both done OK, and we beat both of them at Otley last season.

"Obviously we will have to recruit again, but we have some good young players who will hopefully progress in the level above."

Lawrence added: "The key was the recruitment last summer, but the efforts of the coaching team Peter Clegg and Mike Barnett should not go unrecognised.

"The main games, especially considering we lost twice to Wharfedale, were the wins over Birmingham-Solihull home and away and the home win over Newbury, which we took 22-20 by scoring 13 points in the final eight minutes.

"In financial terms we will be better off next season.

"We received £61,000 from the RFU this season and our figure next season will be significantly higher.

"But there is no guarantee of future funding, and our chairman Paul Jaques is sensibly keeping his feet on the floor, saying we won't be throwing money at players.

"It is a pity that Birmingham-Solihull beat Wharfedale at the weekend and seem certain to clinch the other promotion place.

"It would have been nice to have seen Wharfedale promoted as well - not least in terms of the gate money - but maybe we can play them twice in club matches instead."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.

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