Wed 03 May 2017 10:47

Club History  -  Taken from articles previously published   -  2001.


From RFU Touchline Magazine January 2001 

Six years ago, the two existing rugby clubs in the Somerset town of Yeovil were faced with a serious predicament. Yeovil and Westland each had their strengths and weaknesses. But the predicament they were faced with was simple - they had to merge or one of them would eventually die.

The clubs made the decision to form one brand new, single club - Ivel Barbarians. So when Fran Cotton opened the Barbarians' excellent new headquarters at Yeovil Showground on the outskirts of the town last September, it may only have been five years on from the initial decision to merge the clubs but in terms of the provision of a platform to give members of the community the chance to play competitive rugby in top-class facilities, it was one million light years on from the days when the two clubs stood alone.

"Rugby in Yeovil was faced with a choice," Ivel official Philip Evans said. "Either the extinction of rugby in the town because of poor facilities which were getting worse - or to take the challenge on board and develop and provide a facility which actually met the community's needs for the sport, with facilities of the highest quality. We took up the challenge and I think we can now concentrate on rugby again."

Club officials looked at seven potential sites before settling on Yeovil Showground. They also had to overcome the hurdles of local government bureaucracy and obtaining funds from the National Lottery, in addition to the club's own fund raising, which was vital in obtaining the eventual sum for the development of the facilities. "If any one of those aspects failed, the project failed," Evans admitted. "It was a major challenge."

The total sum which had to be raised for the project to go ahead was in excess of £800,000. The bid to the National Lottery, where the success rate for applications was only one in eight at the time, was successful and the club gained £460,000 from that source - the first major Lottery award in the town and the first Lottery award for a project without priority status.

Club official John Davidge wrote to 250 different sources and with a lot of effort and dogged determination from club workers, the cash was raised for the new facilities. From the time planning permission was granted in 1998, to the completion, the club was often playing at three different venues in the town. Now it is widely conceded that the club has set the standard for the rest of the league. And, on the field, they are living up to the aims set out in its mission statement, which reads: "To provide a community-based rugby facility for all age groups, abilities, male and female, creating the basis for the development of rugby in the district and be recognised as a centre for excellence."

From under 7s to veterans, with four senior sides and a women's side they are thriving. "We have now created a facility which should help the development of the game in the Yeovil area," Cox said. "I suppose I would say one club would have died and the other would have continued as a pub side. But now a lot of people who were connected with both clubs are coming back because they want to watch a better quality of rugby."

Somerset will play all its Colts games at Ivel's home this year, and the club will also welcome the South West Colleges team. The facilities house three pitches and a training pitch, with the first-team and training pitches floodlit. And with club membership doubling since its inception and a passion for the sport evident, the future for Ivel Barbarians is a long, long way from the uncertainty of the final years of the Yeovil and Westland clubs.

Barbarians' new home is 'perfect place for rugby'


IVEL Barbarians claim they have the "most perfect location for rugby in Yeovil" at their new home.

That is the belief of club spokesman Alan Young as the Barbarians settle into their new base at Yeovil Showground. He said: "We are absolutely delighted to finally have a home of our own. After years of playing in the wilderness this is the best thing to have happened to us."

"There is a real buzz about the place, membership is on the up and we are looking forward to a very bright future. In the past we had played at many different sites around Yeovil and for the last four or five years we were at Mudford Road Recreation Centre."

"The pitches at our new ground boast free-draining soil so we do not expect any matches to be cancelled because of poor pitches. Last season we were forced to call off an awful lot of games due to the state of the Mudford pitch."

"The facilities are superb. We have a proper social club. We want to attract families because in the past this is something we have had problems doing due to inadequate facilities."

"The minis and junior section will also be able to train and will play on one site for the first time too. There are four pitches, two of which are floodlit (the 1st XV and training pitches). The six changing rooms all have showers and toilets."

A large function room caters for up to 200 people. There is a fully-equipped kitchen, bar and committee room. The building is air-conditioned and there is disabled access throughout.  The bar area overlooks the 1st XV pitch. There is a stunning view of the countryside to the south of Yeovil. It is possible to watch a game of rugby in comfort while the senior side are having to endure the elements.

Outside there is a storage area for rugby kit and parking facilities for up to 70 vehicles. Coach George Cooper is not forecasting a promotion season for his Southern Counties South side in 2001-2. He said: "There is a huge gap between our league and the one above (South West Two) - we are not ready for that. But I hope we will have a good run in the national and Somerset cups. It is now important that the players of the club work as hard as the people who raised money for the ground."

The ground project, which cost approximately £800,000, was part-funded by a Sport England grant of around £470,000 and a £32,000 donation from the Foundation of Sport and the Arts, plus contributions from local businesses and individuals and other fund-raising activities.

A hand-carved clock is one of the centrepieces at the club's new headquarters. 

Tony Nesbitt carved the clock in the form of the club logo from a piece of lime. The first of the four dates, 2001, commemorates the opening of the new facilities, the other three dates being 1875 and 1954 when Yeovil RFC and Westland RFC were founded, and 1995 the year they merged to form Ivel Barbarians. The clock was fitted above the club's bar in time for the star-studded opening ceremony.

Rugby heroes open Ivel's new ground


A LARGE crowd of spectators turned up at the Yeovil Showground site on Sunday to help celebrate the official opening of the Yeovil-based Ivel Barbarians Rugby Football Club's new £800,000 headquarters.

Highlight of the day was when an Ivel team played against an England all-stars side consisting of former international players such as Peter Winterbottom and Mike Teague.

Former England and British Lion prop, Fran Cotton, who in 1997 managed the Lions' tour of South Africa, officially opened Ivel's new superb clubhouse.

Ivel's new ground includes four pitches, two of which are floodlit, six changing rooms and the wonderfully equipped clubhouse which has a large function room, kitchen, bar and committee room.

Earlier in the day Ivel's Colts' team played their counterparts from Chard and then the junior and mini section of the Yeovil club gave a demonstration of their skills to the crowd of 1,500 rugby supporters.

Official Opening by Fran Cotton - Sunday 16th September 2001


The format of the day is yet to be finalised but it is expected to start around midday and run on into late evening. It is anticipated that the full membership of the Club will be involved in what is expected to be a memorable occasion. Selected guests will also be invited. 

We are extremely fortunate that none other than the 1997 British Lions Tour organiser and former International Fran Cotton will perform the opening ceremony (has anybody got any ribbon and scissors?!)

Who is Fran Cotton?

Recognise him now? 

This now famous shot was taken of Fran during one of his  appearances for the British Lions', was it against New Zealand? you can ask him on the day if you can recognise him without the mud - he will be the one with the scissors (by the ribbon).

Born and raised in Wigan, the heart of Rugby League country, Cotton's father and brother were noted professionals with Warrington, and Cotton's boyhood heroes were Rugby League legends Billy Boston and Bev Risman. Yet Cotton became a major force in Union as player with England and the Lions, and as a businessman (he owned Cotton Traders, who at one stage supplied kit to half of the world's top national sides). He was also chosen to be the 1997 tour manger of the British Lions' tour to South Africa.

At 6ft 2in and over 17 stones, he had all the raw materials for a prop, but it was his innate strength, inner drive and technical appreciation that helped him accumulate 31 caps.

One of the fittest players of his generation, Cotton was also one of the most versatile and because of his technical acumen became as proficient on the tight-head as he was on his more accustomed loose-head.

Cotton's top-level career began as a 23-year-old when he led the north to a famous victory over the 1972 All Blacks at Workington - the first time an English province had beaten the All Blacks. Over the next decade, until his retirement in 1981 after an on-field heart attack, Cotton was a central figure in British rugby. The first choice Lions tight-head in South Africa in 1974, Cotton also played three of the four Tests in New Zealand in 1977 as a loose-head, and returned to South Africa with the 1980 Lions' tour.

1XV of yesteryear

"xv from yesteryear

The John Merry Lounge Opening  -  October 2003

The new facility was opened on 4th October 2003. The John Merry Lounge will provide extra space and enable the club to host more than rugby-related functions on Saturdays.

The lounge has been named after local businessman and club benefactor John Merry who officially opened the room with the help of club chairman, Phil Evans.