Matt Bayliss has been honoured for his many years of outstanding service to Hartpury University RFC by being made an Honorary Life President of the club.
Most recently, Matt had served as President, prior to which he worked as the club’s Commercial Manager, working closely with our many valued sponsors and suppliers. Irrespective of what capacity has been, Matt has hardly missed a match at the Alpas Arena in very many seasons and, as a senior member of the club’s committee, has travelled to a huge number of away fixtures as well.
He was also the ‘voice of Hartpury’ for a long period during the club’s dramatic rise through the league pyramid, being the stadium announcer for a number of seasons.
Very much a local man – born and brought up in Gloucester – Matt was a well-known figure in local rugby circles well before his involvement with Hartpury.
As a young back row forward, he cut his teeth with his local club, Coney Hill, before joining Gloucester. Although the majority of his career at Kingsholm was to be spent playing for Gloucester United – very much the testing ground for promising young players – he did pull on the famous Cherry & White jersey for more than 20 first team appearances.
However, with senior opportunities limited, he moved to Cheltenham RFC. In those days, before league rugby, the club had what was regarded as a ‘first class’ fixture list, which meant that he was still playing against very strong sides and very good players.
Following a return to Coney Hill after three seasons at Cheltenham, Matt gave up playing – ear damage eventually forcing his retirement at an relatively young age – but that was far from the end of his on-field involvement.
He decided to take up refereeing and went on to become one of the most respected officials in the country. It is fair to say that, having later officated in games such as France vs New Zealand and The Barbarians vs Australia, his skills as an official took him to a level well beyond that of his playing career, although he was of the wrong generation to take advantage of the professional opportunities available to referees today.
Nevertheless, he was to remain involved directly in the sport as both a citing officer and as the chairman of the Gloucestershire RFU Disciplinary Commitee until well into the 2000s.
He started his journey in the commercial side of rugby with another local club, Cinderford, before former Hartpury College Principal, Malcom Wharton, persuaded him the spend the final years of his career at Hartpury.
Hartpury University RFC is a young club and, not surprisingly therefore, precedents for recognition such as this are few and far between. Malcolm Wharton and another former President, the late Martin Baber, were recognised in this way, as were former Directors of Rugby, Allan Lewis and Alan Martinovic.
Congratulations on this recognition, Matt, and we hope to see you around the club for many more seasons to come.