BASINGSTOKE Rugby Football Club is celebrating its milestone 70th birthday – and this significant season also sees the start of a new era.

Michele Amos has broken a glass ceiling by becoming the first-ever female to fill the chairperson’s role in the club’s history – and she is looking forward to working with people both inside and outside the club in the coming season and beyond.

“I love rugby, and I love this club,” said Michele, who has played a key role in the life of Basingstoke RFC over two decades.

Michele added: “I have been involved here for 20 years, and I am now looking forward to playing a key role in helping the club to build on its firm foundations and to helping it to thrive in the future.

“I believe that I can bring something to the club by taking on the chairperson’s role, and I am delighted to have been voted into the position.

“My vision is that every single person who plays rugby at this club can be facilitated to play rugby to their best potential. I want players of all ages to enjoy their rugby and to be the best they can be.”

It was two decades ago that Michele first stood on the touchline at Down Grange, with her then two-year-old son as they watched his four-year-old brother getting his first experience of rugby.

Michele recalled: “I thought that there was no way that I could just stand there and passively watch my sons playing rugby for another 15 years so I asked if I could train to be a coach.”

That wish was granted and over the next 14 years, Michele became a key figure in the club’s development of young players.

Six years ago saw a dramatic change of direction when Michele became involved in starting up a girls’ rugby team. From small beginnings, this has successfully developed into a flourishing feature of the club with 80 young women now playing at under-13, 15 and 18 level.

Michele’s extensive coaching background, coupled with her passion, commitment, and experience in leadership and governance, make her an ideal candidate to follow in the footsteps of Basingstoke RFC legend Dr Steve Tristram, who held the post of president and chairman last season.

Michele, 54, said: “Steve is a great president and a super figurehead at the club, and I am delighted that he will continue to play a leading role in the club as president and at the pre-match lunches, which are an important feature of the club’s life.”

Michele is, of course, planning to attend some of the club lunches and is looking forward to hosting her own chairperson’s lunch before the home game on Saturday, September 15.

She said: “The September 15 lunch will be a very significant one for me and I am looking forward to sending out the invitations and to seeing a lot of friendly faces on the day. It will be a special lunch to celebrate this new era for the club.

“The support and lovely comments I have received from people since taking on the chairperson’s role in July have been really heartening, and I am so grateful to everyone who has given me such great backing.”

Just as rugby is a team game, so is the business of running a rugby club, and Michele is delighted to be part of a forward-thinking management team, which includes her husband Russell, who is chair of grounds.

“I have a fantastic team around me,” she said. “There is great passion and commitment from everyone involved in the management committee. Everyone has a key role to play in making sure that the club is successful on and off the pitch.”

With around 700 members, 1,000 stakeholders, and a wide range of business sponsors and supporters – including long-standing main club sponsor Champion Group – Michele is in no doubt that the club is well-positioned to build on its current firm foundations and to develop new partnerships.

She said: “The club is a really good business networking hub and I want to see it continue to help and support local businesses, and community groups, as well as enjoying support from these organisations.

“I want to listen to what people think the club can do for them or their organisation, and if it is possible to forge mutually beneficial partnerships, or make something happen, then we will make it work.”

One thing that the new chairperson will definitely be carrying on doing is coaching.

“My heart has always been in coaching,” said Michele. “I have coached all youth age groups, and people will see me down here every Sunday coaching.

“There are 130 volunteers out there on a Sunday and we are all here because we love the sport, we love this club and we are passionate about what we do in helping people to enjoy their rugby.”

It’s been a mega-busy month since Michele took up the chairperson’s role but she is delighted with the way things are shaping up for the new season, and she is confident that this special year in the club’s history is going to be a good one for players of all ages.

With a new website launched this month, Michele is keen for the club to build on its strong social media platform to better connect the club with its membership and the local community.

She also wants the club to continue to be the place of choice for local groups to come and use its facilities, and she wants members to make the most of their membership.

Michele, who is a Leadership and Governance Consultant for schools, is looking forward to welcoming familiar and new faces to Down Grange when the Men’s First XV get their Hampshire Premiership season underway against Alresford on September 8.

“I feel that this is going to be a momentous and memorable year for Basingstoke RFC, and I am delighted that I can make a major and positive contribution as chairperson,” said Michele. “I can’t wait for the new season to start.