Five years? Really? Five bloody years????
I can't afford the time to re-write our full history, so here is the official recap from our website!
#rugbyunited® is a digital communications organisation that brings rugby fans and players together across the world.
Established in December 2011, we are the largest cohesive social media supporters and today’s rugbyunited® networks spans over 60 countries tweeting in over 24 different languages.
We have relationships with many online and offline mainstream media organisations, strong contacts within Digital, PR, Marketing & Advertising Agencies and national and regional governing bodies. rugbyunited® also work with a number of leading rugby brands, supporting and promoting their social media and apparel.
#rugbyunite® is ran by fans, for fans!
#rugbyunited was founded and launched on 23rd December 2011.
#rugbyunited traces its roots back to the humble beginnings of an attempt to support Gloucester Rugby in their play off semi-final against Saracens on Sunday 15th May 2011. Gloucester fans went twitter crazy drumming up support using the #GlawstowinonSunday tag. Gloucester lost – but Trevor Large and Rich Church-Keen met.
That Summer, it was the RWC2011 and off the pitch, the then Gloucester Centre, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu made the headlines with a series of comments and Trevor and Rich started engaging with a whole host of rugby fans across the world.
The RWC2011 may have been a disaster for the English and a great success for the Welsh – but it was the start of fans using social media in greater numbers and the banter was getting better and better.
It was clear, as a sport, rugby WAS united. It was clear we have a special breed of fans who can talk and drink together. Did #rugbyunited really capture the spirit of the fans? The players? The grounds? The game as a whole?
How it all started…
December 2011 – End of 2012
Twitter Rugby fans came home for the Christmas holiday, and at 8pm, on the 23rd December 2011, @trevorlarge started talking about #rugbyunited. Together with @RichC_K, we started tweeting and #rugbyunited started appearing on people’s timelines, and so it started!
We encouraged everyone to follow each other back, encouraging fans to follow fans of other clubs. The “followback” mantra had its critics, established blogs were skeptical and a few fans didn’t want to follow everyone back, but we stuck to our beliefs and to this day, @trevorlarge (now @rugbyunited) will follow every rugby fan back. (One ‘critic’ of the “followback” was Gemma Fox, who is now part the of the rugbyunited team, read her blog here http://gemmafox5.wordpress.com/tag/rugby/ about this very subject!)
On the 8th February 2012, less than 7 weeks after #rugbyunited was first tweeted, Trevor, Rich, Nick Lewis and Dave Heywood met for the very first time at The Water Poet pub in Gloucester and rugbyunited started planning for the future.
rugbyunited was then registered as a company, our second new the new web site went live and for just the second time, we all met on the 21st April 2012 before the Gloucester v Sale Sharks game.
That summer, the very first rugbyunited rugby team was out together for a charity game in support of Multiple Sclerosis (which rugbyunited narrowly lost!)
In October 2012, the rugbyunited accounts when live, establishing club accounts for all English Premiership Clubs, PRO12 clubs, the Six Nations teams, the Southern Hemisphere Four Nations along with the British & Irish Lions and the Barbarians. With all of these 36 new twitter accounts feeding in to the main rugbyunited account, we gave our club managers unrivalled access to the whole rugbyunited network.
November turned out to be a busy month for us, the Autumn Internationals created lots of banter between our Northern and Southern Hemisphere International team accounts and Gemma spending almost every weekend working alongside Canterbury on the social media side. Gemma was often at Twickenham for 9am on a Saturday morning covering the whole day’s event before at 3pm kick off, and rugbyunited’s reputation continued to grow!
Almost a year later, it was time for a new, contemporary logo that fitted our ever expanding club and team accounts. It was a frightening proposition, but in the small hours of Wednesday 5th December, #rugbyunited rebranded right across the board and the web, blog, facebook and almost 50 separate twitter accounts all changing over between 2-4am.
On the 21st December, we added the English RFU Championship clubs to the growing list of #rugbyclubs.
2013 started with our first Top14 clubs, bringing new challenges of finding bilingual people to run them, and in January, @rugbytoulon_ and @rugbytoulouse_ where added to the list and in February, our international Brazilian account went live with the unfortunate tag of @rugbybra_ !
In April, the rugby world started turning their mind to the impending Lions tour of Australia and the squad announcement due at the end of that month. The Lions weren’t the only team in “recruitment” mode, the Barbarians (@Barbarian_FC) were also building a formidable team as they would take on the Lions in Hong Kong. The guys who run @Barbarian_FC are great supporters of #rugbyunited and use the hashtag in their tweets and here at #rugbyunited, the very foundation of the Barbarians fits with our united view very well.
As the Lions tour arrived, we were delighted when Mark Greenhalgh took the #rugbyclubs account @rugbylions13 with him to Australia on the Lions Tour, and gave the whole #rugbyunited network “live” tweets from the Tour!
My marked our 2nd year anniversary with the announcement that all the top 50 World Rugby ranked countries where now represented in the rugbyunited network and many have forged close friendships across the continents!
Now entering our third year, “our little hashtag” had grown in to an established brand and presence. We were running regular competitions with prizes such as top class tickets, signed shirts, behind the scenes events, and we were now in a fortunate position to be sending some of our hard working, volunteer managers to events and press meetings at their clubs and countries.
Our blog site was also growing, with Rich having a great mix of regular features, guests and our rugbyunited managers sharing their exploits on their rugbyunited travels!
In the summer, we started talking about Rugby Aid with the fantastic guys from Rugby For Heroes guys and to give this a kick start, our own Gemma Fox hosted a Rugby Fair at Hereford RFC with Forces Exiles representing rugbyunited in a “pre season” friendly! (Which again, rugbyunited narrowly lost!)
The day was a great success, meeting some great rugbyunited followers as well as our rugbyunited managers from England, Scotland, Wales, Wasps, Gloucester, Sale and the lovely Mark and Karen from Canada!
The year continued, the invites kept flooding in and we continued running a whole host of sponsored competitions. Forces Exiles became our resident team, carrying the rugbyunited name across their shirt, and some up their players trialing the very latest Canterbury rugby boots!
The year started as it left off, and rugbyunited broke through the 250,000 followers worldwide mark. Our accounts continued to grow and have become the very heartbeat of rugbyunited. Ran be dedicated, committed and highly knowledge people, they often know staff and representatives of the very clubs and countries they represent!
rugbyunited where delighted to partner with Summer Social London, (formerly Rugby Rocks), GB 7s, Creative Rugby, 7s and the City and Rugby4Heroes as our resident team, Forces Exiles hit the 7s circuit. With two teams, a social and an Elite, Jay Angove had his hands full getting the teams out and around the UK!
The World Cup dominated the rugby scene as the summer built, and we grew our rugbyclubs brands with more volunteers meaning our 130 accounts now have over 200 people working on them across a whole host of different timelines!
Rugby Aid at last got confirmed! Although the sheer scale meant that we passed the project on to be run by the professionals!!
This time in 2015, Trevor and myself took a step back and took a long sabbatical after suffering a touch of burn out and the future was up in the air to whether we would carry on. Obviously though, we came back, although have really sat back and let #Rugbyunited run itself a bit more this year, which has meant we don't have TOO much to tell you about our 2016. We have however been lucky enough to visit the British and Irish Lions kit launch at Tower Bridge with Canterbury, who also kindly invited us to a lunch in London to discuss mental health and the professional way of thinking that goes into our great game, we also managed to have representatives in the VIP boxes at Wales v Japan courtesy of Dove Men Care.
We've seen more new accounts formed and more unique users on our Hashtag. The Facebook group contnues to grow (although the official fan page is only very slowly climbing in members) and of course, we were given the news that we are the 18th best rugby website in the world a couple of months ago! We've made friends with the likes of the Rugby Safety Network, Fill Your Boots and 7's touch, who we will continue to support as they bring 3 very different motivations to the table, safety, keeping games afloat and a brand new way to play rugby, as we will with any of the people who follow us!
We also had our first dedicated charity to support in SODA, who we hope will continue to grow and to flourish in the future, but we now look ahead to find our next annual charity for 2017
Th plans for 2017 are just hatching, I know Gemma has some news that she will share in due course regarding our main event for the year, but for now, we will continue to strive to improve our standing, and bring the best of rugby news from grassroots up as well as great banter and rugby insight to you.
5 years down, many many more to go!
Thanks to everyone that is involved in #rugbyunited, whether you only use the hashtag, or RT and share our posts, or whether you are one of the amazing people who give up your time for the thankless task of running one of our accounts! We couldn't do it without you and really appreciate having you on the journey with us!