This week on Meet the Green Machine, we are back in the committee room with chairman Robert Fort. Robert tells us he managed to play in five decades, turning out for clubs as diverse as Oldham RUFC, Cheltenham Civil Service, Sheffield RUFC and the mighty Moscow Dragons – but regrettably never for the Dale – scoring tries worth 3, 4 and 5 points in the process before taking up the whistle for another 10 seasons. He has lived in Burnsall for the past 20 years but still feels like an ‘offcumedun’ because, as he says, he isn’t related to anyone who lives within 5 miles of his house….
1. How long have you been involved with the club
We moved up the valley to Burnsall in 2001 and I have been supporting since then, when not refereeing – which kept me pretty busy on Saturdays until 2012; I then started helping Antony Davies as 4th official and joined the committee in 2014. I was elected chairman in 2018.
2. What’s the day job?
I’m now retired from a career as a corporate tax consultant. I was in Leeds with Price Waterhouse in the 1980s then moved to Moscow in 1995; after returning to UK in 2001 I took a role as Tax Director for UK/Ireland with Ferrovial, a large Spanish infrastructure group, until I retired in 2014.
3. Who’s at home?
I’m married to Alison – coming up 41 years this summer. Two grown up children, Catherine in Skipton with two grandsons and Jonny (who, unlike me, did wear the green shirt briefly) in London with daughter-in-law Rachel and a couple more grandchildren.
4. What is your earliest rugby memory?
Under 12 team at school (Manchester GS) – I think the first match was away at Marple Hall School down in Cheshire in September 1964. But my first real spectator memory was watching the North West Counties defeat the touring Australians (Ken Catchpole and all) at White City, Manchester in December 1966.
5. What is your favourite Wharfedale memory?
So many! Refereeing the Foresters pre-season 50 point demolition of Keighley with the unknown Joe Ford and James Tincknell making their club debuts in midfield was pretty special, but I think I’ll opt for Woody’s injury time try for a bonus point win at Tynedale to save the season in 2018 – but for which we wouldn’t have remained a National League club. Then of course also the Colts National Cup win in 2019 – and seeing so many of those players make a real impact at 1st XV level.
6. What is your favourite away ground?
Has to be Tynedale – a great weekend trip, with lovely people, terrific hospitality – and we seem to be on a winning run up there!
7. Three things that you like
Overseas travel (if only!) to interesting places; live arts (theatre, music, ballet); and walking in the hills with Alison.
8. And three things that you can’t stand…
Reality TV shows; blokes who spray aerosol deodorant around the changing room; and Leeds United.
9. Which three people would you most like to have round for dinner?
Barack Obama – a fascinating combination of lifelong dedication to public service and charismatic ambition; Ralph Fiennes – one of the great stage/screen actors of the past 30 years; and Simon Reeve, who travels to really interesting places and whilst he doesn’t have the answers, understands the issues and isn’t afraid to ask the questions.
10. Three statements about yourself – two true and one a lie….
a. I once had to sit next to Bob Geldof for a 3-hour flight – he was drunk and foul-mouthed so it wasn’t much fun!
b. I have been fined for speeding in a stolen, uninsured Skoda.
c. I was once escorted into Jericho in the occupied West Bank by two truckloads of Kalashnikov-waving Palestinian militia.