A STOURBRIDGE Rugby Club legend who was the driving force behind the development of Stourton Park has died, aged 78.

Club patriarch John Jeavons-Fellows died peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday (May 16).

A former captain and president, John, along with wife Jackie, has been a leading light in the club for nearly 60 years and the energy behind many of the major fund raising and development initiatives.

An old boy of Stourbridge’s King Edward VI Grammar School, John was playing 1st XV rugby for Stourbridge RFC by the age of 18.

John organised the first Stourbridge RFC 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.

John captained the club in 1965 when it moved from Wollaston to Stourton and was president in the club’s 1976 centenary year.

His impact off the pitch has been significant, having masterminded various stages of development that have provided the Stourton Park clubhouse which fans still enjoy today.

Mark Denison, Stourbridge Rugby Club’s director of communications, said: “John was such a massive part of the club. We all knew his death was going to happen, but when it finally came on Tuesday it knocked us all for six.

“John was such a big part of everything we did, and it is a really upsetting time for all of us at the club.”

John was always keen for Stourbridge to have a profile in the national game and it was through his work that Stourton Park 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 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.

Stourbridge News:

John as a touch judge in South Africa, 1980. Photo provided by Ceri Davies

John 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 John 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 and the punishing southern hemisphere summer touring schedule.

Although many questioned the wisdom, particularly after the 1998 ‘Tour From Hell’, the vindication for John’s vision came with Martin Johnson’s all conquering squad and England’s 2003 World Cup victory.

These innovations created lasting wealth for England Rugby and John’s 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.

His massive contribution to rugby, during a period of radical change, brought him good times and lasting friendships in abundance around the world.

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chairman Andy Cosslett said: "The sport of rugby union continues to flourish thanks to the dedication and vision of people like John Jeavons-Fellows, who helped to provide firm foundations for the modern game, as well as ensuring that his own club, Stourbridge RFC, was at the heart of its community."

However John’s greatest love was always Stourbridge Rugby, and his greatest joy came from his family continuing to be involved in the club.

All three of his sons, Harry, Tom and Dick were among the club’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 John 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, New South Wales.

A service of thanksgiving to John will take place at 2pm on Friday June 2, at St Mary’s Church, Oldswinford, and afterwards at Stourbridge Rugby Club.