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An Interview of Kelvin Campbell, former CRFC Chairman, Club Captain, Club legend

It’s a good time to take a good look at Chiswick Rugby Football Club, known lovingly as CRFC, through the eyes of our former Chairman, Kelvin Campbell.

There’s lots of reasons to do this at many points over the years but now seems as good as any.

The club is not only thriving, having survived the pandemic, but is arguably set on the brink of the most exciting stage of its development for a while. It’s hard to pin down exactly why mainly because there’s just so much to be positive and thankful for.

Maybe it’s the happy faces returning after their summer holidays.

Maybe it’s because we have so many new faces.

Maybe its because for the first time ever we have a full contingent of players at the U15 age group and are pressing towards having our first Colts team in a few years.

It could be the deep cleaning that the club undertook over the holidays, and all the other building improvements done and planned. Everyone likes a clean club after all.

It could also be that we have a brand-new website (www.chiswickrugby.co.uk) that will serve the club faithfully as the club itself evolves both its digital presence and how it operates behind the scenes.

It could be the return of the senior squads. They will be driving for promotion this year and that is also very exciting.

As you can see there’s an incredible amount to be excited about regardless of if you are a player, parent, both, or a member.

It’s truly exciting times.

Behind it all our Chairman, Kelvin. There’s not an element to the club he has not either directly or indirectly overseen or personally delivered. I personally can’t conjure up an image of the clubhouse without him in it, probably serving someone at the bar or answering a question - not really a chairman’s job one might think but he does it all thanklessly.

So, it is curious that with all this running forward that Kelvin has, after 14 amazing years, decided to give someone else a go. Fear not, he’s not going anywhere, but he won’t be the Chairman.

Anyone who knows Kelvin, knows there’s a lot more to his story (to date) and it makes for an incredible read. I was lucky enough to sit down with Kelvin recently and tried to capture some of the highlights. If you ever get the chance to have a quiet conversation, if you can catch him between things perhaps or join him on the sidelines, then do.

Characters and club legends like this are the fabric of our community-based club. Read on to see why.

When, Why, and Who

Kelvin is as Chiswick as it gets. He joined CRFC after leaving Chiswick Comprehensive School in the early 80’s.

He’s been at the club for the last 43 years give or take.

How many people does anyone know that have been so dedicated to something for so long? And I repeat, he’s not going anywhere.

Chiswick Comprehensive was unbeaten that year. Ray Theakston (more on him later), came looking for students to become the backbone of a Colts team. Kelvin joined and it was from that original Colts team that multiple key figures built the club as we know it. That team yielded multiple Chairmen, Club Secretaries and First Team Captains. In case you’re wondering – Kelvin has been both Club Captain and Chairman.

What’s the Tally?

Over time Kelvin would net an incredible 26 seasons at the club, 604 first team caps – an amazing record that stands today – and at least 15 tours (that we can mention). It included an international set of hosts that would make anyone suffer great FOMO, including Ireland, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Gibraltar and of course France. Not a bad collection for a young Colt from Chiswick Comprehensive School by any stretch.

What Stands Out?

When pushed Kelvin couldn’t possibly list games that were better than any. There were some special ones, however. One such game was captaining the win for the Middlesex Division 1. In true CRFC spirit the team then arranged matches against as many Champions for other Divisions as they could just to test their mettle and see how good they were. At that level things get very meaningful, and even a 10-0 loss to Stow on the Wold was immense as the Club was representing the entire county.

Personal standouts include getting promoted to Level 6 London 1, by beating Harrow in the final league game of the season.

Kelvin recounts “We played well that day, it still sticks with me now”. That was 1993.
But Kelvin has done more than just play. Memorable Chairman moments include watching CRFC beat Diss in 2015 to get back into London Division 1. On that day, CRFC played away at Staines in front of 400. It was a battle for the ages and CRFC won.

Add to that winning the Middlesex cup in 2012 /13. Kelvin recalls how amazing Adrian Hoile coached the team that year, only to see the team respond and raise to a level yet unseen.

“Amazing all round…. I’ll never forget that” he says as he puts down the photo that he took off the clubhouse wall of pride.

Was it all really that good?

Yes, because even the losses are worth remembering.

“None of it is worth forgetting, none of it”.
From a personal perspective Kelvin doesn’t compare seasons to each other as they are all different and it’s not a logical point of view to develop.

If there was one game he wished went differently, it would have been during the 50th Anniversary season. The team set out to win the entire lot that year and were successful for the entire home and away stretch, not dropping a single match. They lost a semi-final to Doncaster which robbed them of the chance to play at Twickenham. They won the league, they won the cup, but missed the treble.

“Having another chance at that would have been good” he recounts.
Stats for that season are remarkable. Played 30, won 27, drew 2, lost 1. What is most incredible is the scoring – that season CRFC outscored all opponents 939 to 274 on aggregate.

Another good season was 2007/2008. On that occasion CRFC outscored all opponents 613 to 169, yet another statement season that shows how historically CRFC has been a force.

Impact

With Kelvin front and centre and driving the club in many ways, we took a few moments to reflect on who has impacted him – surely the people that did were incredible and so through his eyes deserve some discussion.

When pressed, we came up with four, if you want to know who might be “the one” then grab a few pints with Kelvin and ask – grading them here is not the point.

“That type of person”

Kelvin has huge admiration for multiple people both historically and at the club today, but its “That type of person” that Kelvin reflects upon frequently. Too many to name, but the kind of player you extend your own career to play alongside. It’s the club people that don’t even play rugby but that are so ingrained in the club’s culture that they make everything overwhelmingly rewarding.

Ray Theakston.
Club Legend. He bought Kelvin to the club and is responsible for everything since. Without him Kelvin would a have different story, and CRFC might have none. Ray made all this possible, for Kelvin and everyone else for generations to come. Kelvin owes him a lot, so does anyone that sets foot on the pitch really.

David “Goose” Goodenough.
Club Legend. He was an exceptional player and leader. After Chiswick he played for Rosslyn Park for several years, but his heart brought him back to Chiswick. He then single handedly built the vision for the club, galvanised the club from the clubhouse to the pitch and mentored Kelvin to be captain when he himself stood down.

“He was selfless, fearless and he inspired me and taught me to believe in myself. It speak volumes for the man that on his untimely death the amount of grief felt at the club was unimaginable and spanned all generations. “

James Oliver.
After a long pause and a considered think, Kelvin reflects fondly on special contributions from James.

While hard and maybe unfair to pick out one special player from the many I have played with James Oliver comes to mind, having played Rugby since attending Chiswick school, Colts and hundreds of senior first team games for the Club. Our last season at School we were unbeaten and also count ourselves blessed to have enjoyed unbeaten seasons, Combined London Old Boys cups & Middlesex finals. In my opinion James is the best player never to have captained our club. A true club legend.

Pride

When pressed on what he is most proud so far, Kelvin had two things to offer.
The Mini’s. From where that started to where it is at today is amazing, seeing where it goes is incredibly exciting.

Mostly though, Kelvin is proud of his wife, her love and support and patience. Without her there’d be no Kelvin as Chairman (or barman and everything else). Her unwavering support over the last 43 years is incredibly meaningful and something to be very proud of.

Future

One thing that Kelvin wants to see in the club’s future is this. Sustained London 1 competition.

Everything is in place for an amazing season and a return to London 1. This season CRFC has great players, coaches, and a great pitch. They should be able to get there and sustain it. It’s a different level for sure, but with everything coming together at the club there’s no reason to hope for anything less.

The Next Chairman

It makes sense to see what advice has been gleaned over the last 14 years that the next Chairman should heed.

When asked, Kelvin offered that they:
• Shouldn’t do too much by themselves. They should delegate, empower, support and lead others to spread the load.
• Stay focused on taking the club forward. It’s the single most impactful way to serve the Chiswick Community. Make the club a great sporting club that Chiswick can use and be proud of.
• Work closely with Wim Hulme, Minis Chairman and co-founder of the Minis programme in 2011 with Simon Hallet and Adrian Hoile. Wim does that job but so much more, any incoming Chairman will be lucky to have him. Simon and Adrian also deserve more than an honourable mention here.

Many people deserve credit that aren’t listed here. That’s what the culture that Kelvin has built does – it gives back more than you give and helps you keep your karma balanced.

Nickname

When questioned, Kelvin revealed he does have a nickname, but even as I finished the questions and the last of my pint asking them, that information was sealed behind a knowing look and a mischievous laugh.

Parting Comments

The club is entering a natural next phase. The players and parents are driving this club, they are the heart and soul of it; he can’t wait to be part of it, whatever form that takes. This is truly a product of and for the Chiswick Community. The new Chairman and Directors have an amazing club to work with.

For full size photos click here.