Pride & Passion with P&P: Gemma MacDonald
In a new content series, we bring supporters' stories to life and hear their Pride & Passion in choosing to #BackYourBurgh.
This week, we spoke with Dunfermline-based supporter Gemma MacDonald who has been a Season Ticket Member since 2017. Pride & Passion is brought to you by Main Club Sponsor Principal & Prosper - find out how you can receive impartial financial advice today.
Where do you live and support the club from?
What year did you first start supporting the club and what was the first match you attended?
I'm a fairly new fan and started supporting Edinburgh Rugby in 2017. I had always wanted to go to a rugby match, but didn't know where to start. My chiropractor is friends with Sam H-C and recommended I went to an Edinburgh game, which I did and never looked back.
The first match I attended was an 1872 cup game on 23rd December 2017. It was a fantastic atmosphere at BT Murrayfield and the first of many nail-biting finishes.
Do you attend Edinburgh Rugby matches with friends or family?
Myself and my two teenage boys are now Season Ticket Members and love attending games together. In the early days, my then 10 year old rugby player would have to explain the laws of rugby to me so I knew what was going on, but I'm pretty knowledgeable now thanks to him.
When we win, we have a fun tradition of calling the rest of the family and singing "Sweet Caroline" as loud as we can as we drive home. Great memories.
Edinburgh Rugby is known as having a family atmosphere, what does this mean to you?
The family atmosphere was one of the first things I observed and fell in love with. When you sit in the stand and look around, there are people of all ages. Everyone is welcome and included. Being with family at games is really special and I have been able to use those experiences to teach my children about the importance of respect and integrity.
My boys have loved the opportunity to be up close to the players, chatting with them, taking selfie's etc. It's exciting for them to meet the people they look up to and encourages them to keep trying their best. However, it goes further than that and I think the introduction of the Castle Club Junior Memberships have been great for the younger generation of fans to feel like they are an important part of the ER community.
With a growing supporters club – Edinburgh Rugby Fans Group – the supporters have really come together off the pitch in the last few years, can you give us an example of that collaborative passion for the club?
Wow, where do I even start with the ER Fans Group? What a family! I think the fact that we have now sponsored 13 players this season and aiming for a full XV says it all. Doing this has meant that no matter what your circumstances are, everyone has the opportunity to contribute something towards sponsoring our players.
We care about the players as people, so what happens off the pitch is just as important to us. The admin team, lead by Nicola Garforth have created a really important ethos of kindness and respect. When you consider the age and profiles of our players, it's really important that our interactions protect and promote positive mental health for all.
Edinburgh Rugby made a huge effort to keep fans going throughout the lockdown – when there were no games being played – what did that content and connection with fans mean to you?
What the club done through lockdown to engage with fans was just fantastic and genuinely kept me going. As a frontline NHS worker, it has been an incredibly challenging time and was so important to have something to look forward to. Having a match replay every week provided some structure and normality to my week, which was really important for my own resilience.
As a family, we loved engaging with the challenges such as the Jamie Lyall commentary, #CrabbiesBestDressed competition and of course, receiving personalised videos from the players and Cockers.
We had booked to travel with the team to Bordeaux in April as a surprise for my son's birthday. When this was cancelled, Doug Struth personally wrote to him and arranged a few surprises for him. In the midst of a global crisis, I'm sure Doug had many important things on his mind, but he took the time to reach out and we will always remember his kindness. To have someone at the head of the Club with those values, you know we are in safe hands.
All of those things brought us closer to our immediate family, but also our extended rugby family. We knew we hadn't been forgotten and now is our time to do whatever we can to reciprocate that support.
With better results and growing attendances, the club is on the rise – does it feel like fans are on that journey with Edinburgh Rugby?
Oh absolutely! I think Doug and the whole team have kept supporters included through the regular updates via email, live events and social media every step of the way. They create discussion points for supporters, which has kept the passion alight and the desire to want to be part of it.
How excited are you to move into our new stadium and how important will having our own home be to supporters?
Having our own stadium was always going to be a momentous occasion, but after not being able to attend games for such a long time, it will feel all the sweeter. I am so excited to sit in a packed stadium, with fans surrounding the whole pitch supporting our team.
BT Murrayfield has been a good temporary home, but we will be able to create an even better atmosphere in our new stadium. You'll just need to make sure I'm assigned a seat in a noisy section, as it has been known for me to lose my voice through chanting.
How special will it be for fans to get back into grounds and watch live rugby when it is safe to do so?
Whilst it has been fantastic to connect with fans through social media, it is not the same as being together in person. That growing sense of community will feel even stronger when we are back together, laughing and celebrating, cheering the team on and letting them know we are right behind them.
I don't think any of us will take for granted the ability to attend live games. Hopefully that won't be too far away now.
Finally, if you were to sum up: what does supporting Edinburgh Rugby mean to you?
I'm not sure I'll be able to convey this very well in words, but I am so proud to be an Edinburgh Rugby supporter. I've used the word "community" a few times and that's exactly how it feels.
I feel connected to others through the values of the club and believe I'm a better person because of it. I've never played rugby myself, but I don't think that is important because there is a place for everyone. I'm passionate about inviting people to be part of our community and will continue to do so, so they can experience the happiness that is egg-shaped.