One of Portsmouth’s most iconic sporting clubs is fighting for its future after pulling out of national league

One of Portsmouth's most iconic sporting institutions - the United Services RFC - face a fight for survival.

Sunday, 17th November 2019, 7:14 pm
US Portsmouth players spray champagne after winning the Hampshire title in 2014/15 with a 100 per cent record

The famous club, based in the heart of the city, have been forced to withdraw from the national league system after struggling to raise a team.

United Services, founded in 1882, have informed the RFC that they could no longer fulfil their London 3 South West fixtures.

They had failed to field a side for their previous three league games, granting their opponents walk-overs.

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Before this, they had also conceded over 100 points in losing at home against Reeds Weybridge.

It was a sorry situation for a club who, before the advent of league rugby in the late 1980s, regularly faced the likes of Bath, Harlequins, Saracens and Wasps in first class matches.

Under the circumstances, United Services president Jed Stone and his committee felt the situation could not carry on.

'I would not want another month in rugby like the one that United Services has just experienced,' said Stone.

'We have had difficult times before but realising that the team was no longer able to compete in our present league was a bitter pill to swallow.

‘Last week we let down Gosport & Fareham in what should have been their first ever visit to Burnaby Road for a league match.  

'It was that which finally made us realise we had to take action to halt a decline which had been developing over some eight months.  

‘Leaving the league may seem negative but it is only fair to the other clubs, and it is the way we have decided to re-group and go forward.  

'Our aim is to continue to provide Saturday rugby for the players we have.

'We are conscious of where we are in the history of the game and of our place in the City of Portsmouth and in Hampshire rugby. 

'It is important that we don't stand idly by and let the club slide away.

‘When things don't go well, finding someone to take the blame is easier than finding a way of making them go better.  

'Well, that is not happening here. 

'It is tough, but United Services will survive.

'We are determined that the club will continue.'

United Services had spent the past decade yo-yoing between the national and Hampshire Leagues.

In 2015 they won the Hampshire title with 18 wins out of 18 - and in each of those games won a bonus point for scoring four or more tries.

Relegated from London 3 South West two years later, US bounced straight back 12 months later after winning the Hampshire League again.

Last season they finished fifth in London 3 South West, with 11 wins, a draw and 10 losses. A poor run-in - they lost their last six games - wrecked hopes of an even higher finish.