Moseley spirits lifted by farewell victory

Iain Fletcher witnesses the end of Reddings' proud 120-year history
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The Independent Online

It was inevitable that the shambolic manner in which rugby embraced professionalism would claim victims, and yesterday, one of the most famous grounds in the country heard its final whistle, as Moseley defeated Worcester 34-17.

It was inevitable that the shambolic manner in which rugby embraced professionalism would claim victims, and yesterday, one of the most famous grounds in the country heard its final whistle, as Moseley defeated Worcester 34-17.

The Reddings, home to Moseley for the last 120 years will soon disappear, modern suburbia replacing scrums and cul-de-sacs replacing conversions, as the former owners of the club are forced to sell the ground to ease the debts they incurred in trying to break into the élite of club rugby.

At one stage it looked as if the club might not survive, but after being put into administration on 30 January 1998, it was saved by Moseley Ventures Limited, a vehicle led by former player, Simon Cooper.

Apart from a feeling of sadness around the ground yesterday there was also a sense of purpose and relief that the club and its heritage had been saved. At least for the time being. One long-standing fan lamented the loss but was optimistic about the club's future. "We over-stretched ourselves five years ago when the game went professional," he said. "But what we must do now is try to grow the club from within. Not throw money around because that doesn't work. We have a good youth organisation and if we tie up with the university then we'll have excellent facilities, but it is sad the price we've paid is our ground. I've watched some fantastic matches and some great rugby here, but today is the end."

The association with Birmingham University is the club's great hope for the future. The University has agreed to grant the land as long as the club pay for the buildings and facilities and this creates a joint sports venture and stadium. The only problem is planning approval.

The hope is that it will be granted on the 17 May allowing the five-year temporary facilities to be built and giving Moseley rugby a home. However, if a decision is not forthcoming by 22 May then the club will have to explore other options.

"Of course that is not an ideal scenario," explained Alwinne Evans, the club's chief executive and a former player and president of Moseley.

"We need to find somewhere to develop because before selling the Reddings, the former owners were refused planning permission to redevelop, so we would be in the same situation. We could ground share with another club, and there are offers, but if we can join the University we will put the club on a sound footing with the potential to develop rugby in the Midlands. If we are given permission then we will rent the temporary buildings to keep costs down and then, in five years, we would have to decide on a large investment. But that is nothing at the moment as we still have to get permission for the temporary plans."

Whatever is decided, the ground where Midland Counties scored a famous victory over the All Blacks in 1972, and Bath fought off a spirited Moseley side in the 1989 Pilkington Cup semi-final, will disappear forever.

At least the Moseley faithful were granted one last hooray as two tries by Andy Hall, one in either half, and other scores by Bill Drake-Lee, Peter Buxton and Chris Doyle secured the victory that the fans so desperately craved.

It was much the same back in 1880 when these two sides first met at this ground. Moseley won that one as well but there were no discussions about professionalism or planning decisions. Today, however, there is uncertainty around the club and that will remain until the planning committee make their decision.

Moseley: M Cook (capt); A Gray, A Binns, S Brading, R Martin; C Doyle, S Powell; M Long, R Protherough, P Mitchell, A Hall, A Hadley, J Mellors, B Drake-Lee, P Buxton. Replacements: M Chudleigh, T Sigley, M MacKinnon, G Houston, T Warren, G Gregory, D Hunt.

Worcester: T Yapp; N Baxter, S Woof, A Currier, M Walker; S Ward, C Simpson-Daniel; T Windo, J Richards, A Collins, C Raymond, D Merlin, B Scriven, N Carter (Capt), J Jenner. Replacements: N Lyman, L Denham, M Linnett, C Hall, M Eastwood, B Fenley, B Harvey.

Referee: S Savage (Nuneaton).

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