Touch Rugby is a sport that many of you will have heard of, some may have played it at school, but few will have taken it seriously as a competitive sport.
This year, the European Touch Rugby Championships where held at Highfields Park for four days in July. Such is the growing popularity of Touch Rugby, that the event was broadcast on the BBC for the first time.
“I’ve been involved in the sport for eight years and it’s grown enormously since I started,” said Referee Manager and Beeston local, Dani Hegg. “When I started in Nottingham we had around 50 people involved and now we have about 300!”
Touch Rugby shares some similarities with Rugby, but with a few noticeable differences. Whilst you can score a try, there are no scrums. Tackling is done by a touch and there are no line-outs.
The matches last for 40 minutes, with two 20-minute half’s and a short break in between. “It involves a lot of sprinting, so it’s quite physical,” said Dani.
The open competitions including the men’s, women’s and mixed are the most popular, but there is also a senior’s category for over 45’s, proving that Touch Rugby is a sport where, if fit enough, anyone can play.
So how popular is Touch Rugby and what brings the sport to Beeston?
“The event has been going on for over 20 years,” explained Dani. “The first time, it was obviously still quite small, but Touch (Rugby) is a growing sport and we now have about 800 to 900 players here to compete, with 100 referees. We always need at least 3 referees per game and 14 players per team, so there’s quite a lot of people involved at this event.
“Nottingham was put forward to host the event, because we have some of the best pitches. The last event was in Ireland, and we’ve got the World Cup happening next year in Malaysia, which will involve more teams.
“There’s 17 countries taking part in this event, we have referees from all of these countries as well as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who came to help us out, because the sport is a lot bigger in the southern hemisphere where the referees have years of experience that they’re giving to us here in England.”
Halfway through our conversation, a loud claxon sounds which Dani explains is the signal for the start of the second half of all the matches.
“All the matches are centralised, with the claxon going off for half-time and then when the matches start so everyone knows what’s happening.
“We have a Group Stage and then there’s Knockout’s followed by Gold Medal and Silver Medal matches.
“The Men’s and the Women’s Open are the most popular categories, because that is the highest level, where countries will put players in.”
So how do you get involved if you are interested?
“We have Leagues where there are mixed Women’s and Men’s games which are played on the Beeston Hockey pitches in Winter and Spring and then we have the Summer League which is played at Gresham Playing Fields, so there’s quite a lot going off. Nottingham is one of the bigger clubs in the country.
“I hope that this event will have a good impact on Beeston. Nottingham Touch Rugby are always looking for players to join, so we are hoping that people coming here today will see that this is a great sport to participate in.”
Many in Beeston will not have realised that such an international event was taking place on their doorstep, but there’s no doubt that few sports are more fun, engaging and easier to play than Touch Rugby.