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Berkshire Unicorns forced to postpone Pride tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions

The Berkshire Unicorns have been forced to postpone their Pride 'Ready for Rugby' 10s tournament which was due to be held at Braywick Park on Saturday, November 7. 

Due to tightening COVID-19 measures and London moving into Tier 2 a number of teams have been forced to pull out and organisers will look to run it on a later date. 

The South London Stags and Kings Cross Steelers RFC had been set to take part.

The Unicorns hope the tournament will further raise the profile of the club and encourage players of all abilities to join. 

The inclusive rugby club aims to bring together the Berkshire and West London gay and bisexual community, as well as straight players, to create an inclusive team that caters for everyone, whether that’s a beginner picking up a rugby ball for the first time or a more experienced player who wants to play competitively in a fun, social environment.

The team currently competes in the IGR Southern League (International Gay Rugby League) and is affiliated to the Berkshire RFU. They train at Maidenhead Rugby Club’s Braywick Park on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7pm.

“I have been with the team for about three years now,” said Paul Cordner, the club’s secretary. “It was quite a small team back then. We were lucky if we were getting five or six people at training, but it’s just continued to grow and over the last couple of years the membership base has grown. I think we currently have something like 30 members so it’s going well. We started off in Windsor, training underneath the streetlights on the Long Walk, we didn’t have a pitch or anything like that. But we then became affiliated with Maidenhead RFC. They’ve provided us with lots of contacts and we’ve managed to get a few sponsors on board now.

“We play at Braywick Park and are lucky enough to play on the 3G pitch, normally before the first or second team plays. Maidenhead have been great in that way and we’ve tried to integrate with the club as much as possible.

“We try to be an open and inclusive club for anyone who wants to play, whether that’s touch or contact or whether that’s for someone who just wants to come down and support us and join in with our social activity. We just try to keep it open for all, so, we’ve got ladies who play for us.

“It’s predominantly made up of gay guys but we’ve also got straight guys as well, it’s a good mix, a good dynamic.”

Rather than seeing a drop off in membership during lockdown the Unicorns have seen a rise in people wanting to join the club. Paul puts that down to people wanting to get out of the house and be more active in a fun, social environment. He’s now looking forward to ‘getting his rugby head back on’ for the Pride tournament in a few weeks’ time.

“Before COVID we were arranging quite a few social nights in and around Maidenhead, just to really attract a crowd and recruit new players as well,” said Paul.

“Since February we’ve had about 10 new players join, so we’ve done reasonably well out of it. When people were in lockdown, they wanted something to do and they wanted to get out of the house. We have a broad range of abilities as well, and it’s great to see how people develop from having never touched a rugby to playing in their first game."

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