To you and I, a dressing is generally something you put on a salad, but the concept of “dressing” Gloucester for the World Cup is a very real challenge for a player who proudly represented the city’s rugby club.
Adam Balding is now half way through his role as RWC co-ordinator at the City Council. Tickets for the tournament are on sale, it’s less than a year until the first match, and banners with the “Too Big to Miss” slogan are up in all the host cities.
“Having a slogan means the same message is being given to everyone” he told me. Will the Rugby World Cup come to Gloucester again ? I’ve no idea but cast your mind back to the Olympics – people went to watch events they had never taken an interest in before. The tournament is coming to England, so even if you’re not a sports fan, get involved and experience it.”
“The last year for me has been good, even if it’s been at 100mph. Most host cities have a bigger team of people. In terms of numbers here we are quite small, but the support network is second to none and we get a lot of help from England Rugby. The steering group meet quarterly and there is a project group that meet once a month. Dressing the city was a big obstacle because we’d never had the infrastructure to put up lighting column banners as well as bridge banners before. We’ve used a specialist company and I think the impact so far as been great.”
A year ago Balding might have been playing in France – he had an offer to go there – but instead threw himself into a very different role. Within weeks he was giving presentations at Business Breakfast meetings to 200 people, and recently has been hands on interviewing the hundreds of potential volunteers who put themselves up to help locally during the tournament.
“There are so many folk wiling to do things for free it re-confirms your faith in people” Balding admitted. “Without them the Rugby World Cup would be very difficult to stage. The base we’re looking for is about 60 people so a lot will be disappointed but we will look for other openings in the city for those that have shown an interest. From a council point of view it’s a chance to increase our bank of volunteers.” Not surprisingly too, Balding wants to involve the recently retired internationals players who are in still in the area in some way – Simpson-Daniel, Hazell, Morgan, Delport and Fanolua immediately spring to mind.
At this stage some key local details are not yet finalised.. There will be a Fanzone – probably in the Gloucester Docks – and when the Rugby World Cup trophy starts a journey around the country 100 days out from the tournament, it will spend two days here in Gloucester. Kingsholm will stage four matches, three close together and then a gap before the final fixture between USA and Japan, It’s a diary Balding believes will drive interest as well as putting expectation on the last game.
More immediately, there’s an occasion to relish between Gloucester and Leicester in the Premiership, albeit on the basis of the season so far we shouldn’t expect too much. There will have been an element of relief as Gloucester’s
final twenty minutes at London Welsh finally produced a bonus point win, while at Welford Road, Leicester – still with a long injury list and having been battered by Bath the week before – were edged out in a close game by London Irish. Adam Balding doesn’t see there being much in it.
“Leicester was the toughest environment I was involved in as a player” he said. “They’ll be looking to right a few wrongs and the fans and Richard Cockerill in particular will be expecting a reaction to what has happened. People may have been surprised by Tigers making four signings from Italy over the summer but they always look for players to compliment what they already have. Barbieri is physical and very direct in the back row and hooker Ghiraldini is a good scrummager. Gloucester’s signings this year have been really good too. I think they could end up having a good season but with a new Director of Rugby they are still finding their feet.”
Photograph : Copyright http://www.cinderfordrfc.co.uk