A RUGBY club has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it survive the coronavirus crisis.

Otley RUFC, which was founded more than 150 years ago, is asking its supporters and the wider local community to come to its aid - and is offering rewards in return.

Paul Mackie, Otley RUFC Chairman said: "We appreciate this is a huge ask during these extremely difficult times for individuals, families and companies, which is why we wanted to offer all of those kind enough to donate to the club something in return."

The crowdfunding campaign will give a range of rewards, including discounted match tickets, pre-match lunches, sponsorship deals and discount vouchers from local businesses.

Officials hope enough money can be raised through the project to cover essential on-going maintenance of the ground and help to replace the lost revenue resulting from the season been cut short. The club says there will also "undoubtedly" be costs associated with a safe return to rugby once the season does get the go ahead to start, "as the safety of players, staff and visitors will be paramount".

Mr Mackie says: "Otley RUFC has a very exciting future planned. With a new partnership with Old Grovians RFC, who will play all their rugby this coming season as guests of Otley RUFC, and a fantastic relocation opportunity in the coming years. But for now our doors are shut, and revenue has stopped."

The crowdfunding project launched earlier this month has already secured more than 50 donations thanks to the generosity of the club’s members and supporters and those of Old Grovians RFC. This means the club can now apply for 50 per cent match funding through the Sport England Active Together initiative and if successful that funding will help towards the £10,000 target.

Rewards are available for donations ranging from £1 up to £1,000 and the club is keen to stress any donation however big or small will be very gratefully received.

"Otley RUFC has a fantastic history," said Mr Mackie. "The club was established in 1865, has survived two World Wars, has hosted the memorable Northern Divisions victory over the All Blacks in 1979 and hosted an RWC fixture, USA v Italy in 1991. With the support of local residents I am confident we can survive this crisis and build for a bigger and brighter future, not just for the club, but for the community as a whole, as we aim to provide a sporting hub for the area once we move to our new location."

The crowdfunding project can be found at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/support-otley-rugby-club-during-covid-19-closure#start