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The first Village Lions (NYC) tournament, staged in 2004, turned out to be an inaugural success. The club founded in 1989 by Alan Whelan, Greenwich Village Red Lion pub owner and rugby coach, filled a niche of a fun social club in New York City for women and men.
The Lions decided that March would be a good, starting month for a New York City-based fifteens tournament, which it named the Four-Leaf 15s. That first year, 26-teams entered the event in the Men’s Club, and Women’s and Men’s Social Divisions. (The New York RFC Women were victors. Picture above.)
With so many Lions having competed at Saranac Lake and the New York Sevens, the club was confident it could expand on past tournaments to stage its first event in fine fashion. The planning began ten-months earlier, allowing enough time to advertise and promote the tournament, and to secure sponsor partnerships.
In addition, the organizers knew that club members would volunteer and support this first event under the banner of the Village Lions’ name. The sponsors responded positively, proffering rugby balls labeled with sponsor logos. ‘The weather proved a challenge when snowstorms hit the Metropolitan area, one coming three-days before kickoff. But a cadre of club member shovelers cleared the pitches, until, serendipitously, a weekend of sunny, fifty-degree weather arrived to melt the snow.
The goal was to break even and recoup the initial $11,000 investment. But every aspect clicked and the Village Lions generated a healthy profit.
Today, the Four-Leaf Fifteens continues to be the March classic for local area colleges and clubs.