Oldham roller derby club ‘overwhelmed’ as rival teams rally in support after burglary of team cash and gear

Oldham’s roller derby team have overcome a heartbreaking burglary that saw £1,500 of equipment and cash stolen by winning their first home game of the season.

Rainy City Roller Girls’ victory before a sell-out crowd was only possible thanks to the ‘overwhelming’ response of fans and the roller derby community to the break-in.

Some rival teams donated cash while others gave raffle prizes – and they’ve been inundated with messages of support from their fans.

This was always going to be a big week for the Rainy City Roller Girls as Saturday March 8 brought their opening home game of the season, the first in the world to be played under new rules for the sport.

What they had not factored into their preparations was a burglary in which more than £1,500 of equipment and cash was stolen from their Oldham venue, the Thunderdome.

The team tweeted a distress call on the morning of March 4, and Lyskava said the roller derby community had rallied round to help them back on their feet.

Other UK teams had donated prizes for their charity raffle, the Leeds Roller Dolls provided some cash, and countless messages of sympathy and encouragement came via social media.

The burglary came only two weeks after their venue had enjoyed a revamp with bleachers for spectators and a new floor. Extra heating and toilets are also planned. 

Caroline Haworth, a member of the Rainy City ‘B’ team (‘The Tender Hooligans’), said: “The burglary has been a nightmare. It is all the more gutting after all the effort put into fixing the place up.

“But the response had been overwhelming. We are ever so grateful!”

TAKING A TUMBLE: Roller derby is  full contact so seven referees are needed

Rainy City have put a great deal effort of into integrating with Oldham and the surrounding area, resulting in fan loyalty and a sense of connectedness which is often missing from many bigger and wealthier sports.

So it was no surprise to see Saturday’s game with Royal Windsor Roller Girls sell out, approximately 220 people turning out in a rousing show of solidarity.

Every seat taken meaning some people were turned away at the door – the first time they have ever sold-out the venue.

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED! The ‘suicide seats’ come with an age restriction and clear health warning

One spectator, Glyn, said he had been watching the team since its foundation in 2008.

“The club had such a positive impact on the area, bringing in people from across the country and raising Oldham’s profile,” he said. “And it’s so good to see everyone backing the team following the break-in.”

Rainy City were at the start of play ranked as the 12th best roller derby team in Europe.

A workshop for sport’s governing body, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) was able to go ahead, before the first official game under new WFTDA rules took place.

The game was overseen by some of the sport’s top referees from the USA.

SUICIDE SEATS: Some spectator areas come with a health warning

Roller derby contains elements of track cycling, rugby and ice hockey, and involves two teams of 14 skaters (with five on the track at any one time), aiming to score points while vigorously blocking the other team’s attempts to do the same.

It is a sport which does not take itself too seriously, coming complete with pun-filled commentary and player nicknames, including ‘Jessica Mennis’ and ‘Missy Rascal’.

On the other hand, the sport is complex and highly tactical, while its full-contact nature demands a team of seven referees and equipment checks before and during the game.

Rainy City blew away the stormclouds that had gathered over them earlier in the week with a highly impressive victory.

Their point-scorers (‘jammers’) proved too slippery for the Royal Windsor blockers to keep in check, and the outcome was a 269-145 win for the hosts.

Images courtesy of Darren Crompton, D. Crompton Photography, with thanks.

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