Got your back: Fans Group support continues in 2020-21
With the club launching its player sponsorship initiative last season, players were backed from far and wide, with businesses and enthusiastic fans from across the country all getting involved.
In a season that saw the club reach its first-ever Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final, that support and backing was key, with the players truly feeling the love from their respective sponsors throughout a record-breaking campaign.
However, one sponsor – or in truth, one group of sponsors – stood out as they backed three players in 2019-20 – Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis and Nic Groom.
That sponsor was the Edinburgh Rugby Fans Group, who have continued to support the club after player sponsorships were once again launched for 2020-21 this past Monday.
In just 24 hours, the group raised enough money to sponsor Pierre Schoeman, while they have since raised further funds to back George Taylor too.
With the group well on its way to sponsoring a third player for the second straight season, we caught with Edinburgh Rugby Fans Group admin Nicola Garforth who discussed backing the players via the club’s sponsorship initiative.
“It was actually an idea that was born on the way down the Scarlets match last February,” explained Garforth.
“It had been launched quite a while before that, but just because we were on a long car journey, we were chatting and it occurred to me that it was something we could do if we got enough fans involved.
“We thought the match worn shirts could be an incentive and we could do a raffle for them and it could be a prize draw. I wasn’t sure if would be allowed, but I contacted the club and Managing Director Doug Struth said ‘absolutely’ and he thought it was a great idea!”
With the Fans Group backing lock duo and club centurions Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis, as well as vice-captain Nic Groom, their name sat proudly next to the trio of players in the match programme as well as on the club’s official website.
“We initially said it would just be one player – we thought that would be enough – and we decided that Grant Gilchrist would be a great option and he was available. We knew he would be a player we could all get behind.
“So, it just started as a little idea that we could just sponsor one player, and it soon escalated to sponsoring three players as we raised enough money among the group to sponsor Ben Toolis and Nic Groom.
With sponsorships back up and running for the new campaign, Garforth and her group of admins in the Fans Group were quick on the draw to once again get behind the players in 2020-21.
And after a vote among the Fans Group members, two of the squad’s most popular players have received their backing, with funds raised by Garforth and company in just 24 hours.
“This year, a lot of the group were really keen to have an input and decide on who we were going to sponsor, but we still wanted a bit of control from admin as well, and so we put it to an anonymous vote,” continued Garforth.
“It was pretty much a landslide victory from Pierre, so that was option one and then with George Taylor – because he had won Most Improved Player – we as admin in the group really felt that he was the future of the club in a lot of ways and also because he’s helped us out with his own business as well, he’s been in contact with us loads.
“We’re aiming on sponsoring a third player – at least! – and our plan with that one is to go for an up and coming player, so someone who is maybe just starting out and stepping up from the Academy, or is new to the club.
“We’re aiming for three players again this year and hopefully we’ll be able to sponsor some more, but we’ll soon see!”