Charity rugby match returns to Down Grange

Action from last year's Sparstoke Cup.

Action from last year's Sparstoke Cup.

First published in Sport Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

THE annual Sparstoke Cup will be contested for a sixth time at Down Grange next Wednesday, with organisers hoping to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

The match between Basingstoke Academy and Sparsholt College, which is played every year in memory of former ’Stoke colt Tom Aslett, will get under way at 7.30pm on November 28.

Aslett, who was just 20, died tragically in July 2007 when the tractor he was driving overturned. Due to his love of rugby, his family and friends came up with the idea of playing a match in his memory.

Basingstoke, the club he joined as a six-year-old, and Sparsholt College, where he trained for a career in agriculture, were the obvious choices to field teams. Both quickly accepted the invitation and the Sparstoke Cup was born.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance was chosen to benefit because of their efforts to help Aslett after his accident and just under £43,000 has been raised over the first five years of the competition.

Richard Aslett, Tom’s father, is delighted that the match he organises has become an annual event and is looking forward to this year’s edition.

“This will be the sixth game and we have no plans to stop,” he said. “It has become a real fixture in the calendar at the club and I am grateful for all of support they give me.

“It’s a really well supported event, both by the club and everyone else, which I like to think says a lot about Tom and the sort of lad he was. He would certainly enjoy an event like this.

“I’m really looking forward to the evening. It should be a good evening. It’s a good memorial for us and a really good charity that we are raising money for.

“It is great for all of Tom’s friends and family to have a catch-up. We still meet up two or three times a year but this is the big one and we all look forward to it.

“Some of Tom’s friends even want to play an old boys match and that is something we might do in the next few years.”

Around 400 people attended the event last year, helping to raise an amazing £12,800. Mr Aslett is not sure he will be able to top that this year but is still hoping to raise a sizable sum.

“I am not sure we will be able to match the amount of money we raised last year because we do not have an auction this time around,” he added. “If we could get about £10,000 I would be really happy.”

The action on the field will be followed by entertainment off it, with Ora Productions putting on a show in the clubhouse.

In addition, there will be a grand draw, with prizes including luxury hampers, rounds of golf, meals at local restaurants, cash and rugby tops.

Extra funds have been raised through the official programme, which has been kindly put together by Microset Graphics, with a host of local businesses agreeing to sponsor pages and advertise.

Basingstoke won the first three matches but Sparsholt provided an upset in 2010, winning 25-11. ’Stoke regained the trophy with a 30-10 victory last year and Mr Aslett is expecting another keenly-fought encounter.

“Having lost last year, Sparsholt will be keen to get the cup back,” he said. “The good thing about the game is that you never know which side is stronger before the night. That makes it even more exciting.

“It is great for the youngsters to play under the floodlights and with a good number of spectators. “The college always bring a few people along and it’s a game they look forward to.

“Hopefully we will have another good, close game and get lucky with the weather.”

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