One of the biggest parts of joining a club like Streatham-Croydon is that you become part of something so much bigger. You are surrounded by team photos dating back to the turn of the century, the war memorial quietly reminding you of those former members who made the ultimate sacrifice. The names might be a little antiquated, the photos a little faded but you know that you are playing for a team that has an unbroken link back to these ghosts of the past. It still makes me tingle, after 22 years I still catch myself just looking at the old team photos and imagining the games these men played. Having been in existence for almost 150 years and for a period being one of the biggest clubs in the country, we are probably better known than a little club in South London should be, Maybe not so much today but I’d suggest that a large majority of serious players from the 70s and 80s will at least of heard of us and probably played us as some point.
Our history, and the fact we own our grounds and club house has lead us to be quite quirky in a way. Our club house is a house, an actual victorian villa on the main road in Thornton Heath. I’m not sure how many clubs have an actual house as a club house. As we own everything we have to repair it all and of course we no longer have the money we once did, so a history of make do and mend has lead to much of our facilities retaining an bit of a ‘antique’ feel. We love it, visitors love it, I love it and hate it in equal measures. It’s amazing but surely one of those modern homogenised ‘cattle shed’ club houses would be so much easier and cheaper to maintain!
We do have updated changing rooms and we will post about that separately, my point is, our history is everywhere, it’s important to us. People who join the club understand that we play for those that were here before us and those that will come after us. There are items in the cub house, nondescript items, that are sacred. Items that have stories woven into the myth of SCRFC history. We have tradition in buckets, there is disappointment from those who played at our height, that maybe the club has fallen further than it should have (and i’ll post about that as well). They are some who will say the history, the tradition is what makes us who we are, uniquely Streatham-Croydon.
The clubs history and quirkiness is one of the things I love the most, but perhaps differently, I do not for one moment accept that our club is defined by a house, or a photo or a train station clock stolen in wales in the 50s. The thread that makes our club is the knowledge of where we come from and our commitment to celebrate that. Of course our possessions are important and I’d never want to lose them, no one gets to touch the war memorial no matter how far “rugby banter’ goes, that would be totally off limits. I love our old expensive to keep club house. However, in my mind, nothing we have or do is so sacred that it can’t be changed. As probably the biggest fan of our history, I feel it is down to people like me to make the hard choices in order for us to move forward as required.
We have a dining area in desperate need of revamping, the walls are and have been for 30 years adorned with a mural of the 70s lions tour. It’s amazing, hand painted, minimalist in nature but you can immediately name every player. When Scott Quinnell visited, he was dumbstruck to see his family adorning our walls. It looks great, most members don’t remember a time when it wasn’t where, visitors love it, we are proud of it and we are going to have to tear it down.
The walls are shot, it all needs replacing, re-plastering and short of bringing in some conservation company for £1000s, they can’t be saved. Some have said to save it or copy it, re-do it, but maybe we update it. We can photograph the original and keep a record, maybe do it nicely and have a little display of what it once was but then get a new artist to create a new mural on the walls. Why not, why be a hostage to something? How great is a mural for us if it prevents us from moving forward or costs us 1000s because we can’t give ourselves permission to change.
If someone is going to decide to remove a sacred part of our history (even if it’s just 25-30 years old) I’d rather it was done by someone who understood the tokenism and took steps to ensure we replace with something that honours what has gone before. I don’t know if there will be other things we will need to leave behind but in my head nothing is untouchable, there is not one part of the club I wouldn’t destroy if it was needed, I’d take a chainsaw to things that people have loved for 100 years if it blocked us from progressing. The important thing is, that I love it, I don’t want to lose any of it, so as much as I’d be prepared to break the past to build the future, I’d want to be sure it was right. My mind is always on the players in 50 years time, they will want the history, they will want the tradition and I won’t take that from them just to make life easy but if it needs to happen to ensure we have a club in 50 years, then so be it.
I use the mural as an example, I stress there are no plans as yet to remove it but it is something that will need to be addressed very soon. There are many things we have done that on the whole the majority of the club have embraced. Community outreach, Junior rugby, women’s rugby. We’ve removed things from the club house to stop the clutter. I just believe that staying open minded to all suggestions and not using history or tradition as an automatic reason not to do something allows the club to take opportunities and make better decisions.
History and Tradition are two of the most important parts of any club and they should be seen as a foundation, something to cherish, protect and build upon not a tie that binds a club to it’s past.