John Jeavons-Fellows, leading light of North Midlands, English, world and, not least Stourbridge, rugby died peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday aged 78.
A former captain and President of Stourbridge and a Past President of North Midlands, Jeavons-Fellows !along with wife Jackie, has been a leading figure in the club for nearly 60 years and the driving force behind many of the club’s major fund raising and development initiatives.
An old boy of King Edward VI Grammar School, Stourbridge, Jeavons-Fellows was playing 1st XV rugby for Stourbridge by the age of 18.
He organised the first Stourbridge Tour when he was just 19 and went on to lead many more tours, the most significant being international tours to Canada in 1977 and South Africa in 1980.
He captained Stourbridge in 1965 when they moved from Wollaston to Stourton and was President in their centenary year.
Jeavons-Fellows’ impact off the pitch was significant, having masterminded various stages of development that have provided the magnificent clubhouse at Stourton Park.
His vision for club improvement was matched by commercial acumen and innovative fundraising approaches that included the Century Club, the Debenture Club and a loan note scheme to underwrite the major clubhouse redevelopment in 2003.
He also created, and for most of its history, ran the May Lunch which is now Stourbridge’s most effective annual fundraiser. His most recent development was to develop the ‘memorial wall’ and extended carpark overlooking the Lions pitch. Central to all of this successes was an attention to detail and careful project management.
Jeavons-Fellows was always keen for Stourbridge to have a profile in the national game and it was through his work that Stourbridge became the training venue for England’s Grand Slam winning team of 1980 cementing the club as a favourite destination for an era of international rugby stars.
Away from Stourbridge he shaped rugby during a period of seismic change.
As a local rugby administrator with Stourbridge, Worcestershire & Herefordshire and then the North Midlands Jeavons-Fellows met the challenges of arranging fixtures in a period when the ‘old club’ network meant more than the quality of your team.
He was influential in creating the local merit leagues before, as Chairman of the RFU’s Competitions committee he designed and implemented England’s national league structure in 1987 a pyramid that provides fixtures for all clubs and progression on merit.
It gave him huge satisfaction, on many levels, to be able to witness Stourbridge Lions achieve promotion this season by winning away at Newcastle under Lyme – the last rugby match he attended.
He also understood the importance of competition for England’s national team. As the nations’ representative on the International Rugby Board during the 1990s he recognised that the Five Nations competitions alone were not providing the rigour needed if England were to ever win a World Cup.
It was Jeavons-Fellows who saw that the Webb Ellis Cup could only be lifted if England were able to beat the Southern Hemisphere nations on three consecutive weekends.
With the backing of the Union, and England’s coach, Clive Woodward, he used his international contacts to create the Autumn International series – a fourth fixture being added at the request of Woodward as a ‘warm up’ – and the punishing Southern Hemisphere summer touring schedule.
Although many questioned the wisdom, particularly after the 1998 ‘Tour From Hell’, the vindication for Jeavobs-Fellows’ vision came with Martin Johnson’s all-conquering squad and England’s 2003 World Cup victory.
These innovations created lasting wealth for English rugby and Jeavons-Fellows’ various roles in local, national, European and global rugby saw him negotiate ground-breaking TV and sponsorship deals including Sky as a broadcaster and Heineken as European rugby sponsor.
In 1997 he was part of the British Lions management team for the tour to South Africa.
His massive contribution to rugby, during a period of radical change, brought him good times and lasting friendships in abundance around the world.
However his greatest love was always Stourbridge and his greatest joy came from his family continuing to be involved in the club.
All three of his sons, Harry, Tom & Dick were among Stourbridge’s first cohort of mini rugby players and went on to appear for the 1st XV. Tom captained the side for two seasons from 1993 winning the North Midlands Cup in 1995 with Harry playing alongside him.
More recently Jeavons-Fellows was immensely proud when six of his grandsons, Jack, George, Ben, Charlie, and Alfie and Zac all took part in the Boxing Day fixtures last Christmas and even more so when the Colts, led by Alfie with Zac and Charlie, won the Fred Rowley Cup at Walsall two weeks ago.
In addition to Stourbridge he maintained memberships with Dudley Kingswinford, Old Halesonians and Randwick, NSW.