The Chair of the influential Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport tonight acclaimed Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme after a glittering Awards ceremony in London, which celebrated the inspirational work of young people from across the country.
Damian Collins, Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, was speaking after the third HITZ Awards at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf.
“Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme has gone from strength to strength. It unlocks the potential in disengaged young people and gets them into education and employment,” said Mr Collins.
“I applaud the efforts of the individuals who have won, the coaches who have worked with them and the clubs that have supported the scheme over the years.
“HITZ is a great example of how sport can help tackle some of the toughest social issues young people are facing today.”
Through the power of rugby the multi-award winning HITZ programme tackles head on some of the greatest challenges facing young people today like crime, mental health challenges and unemployment.
Tonight 15 young people from Premiership Rugby clubs across England were honoured with five emerging as overall winners in their particular categories.
HITZ – which kicked off in 2009 – is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon. The programme uses rugby to increase young people’s resilience, self-reliance and confidence and gives them the skills to get back into education, apprenticeships and employment.
HITZ, via 12 Premiership Rugby clubs, supports the development of 3,000 targeted young people every year of which 500 young people will have the opportunity to achieve a positive progression into further education training and employment.
Rugby World Cup winner Jason Robinson – a Land Rover ambassador and long-time supporter of HITZ – headed an impressive list of rugby players past and present who attended the awards to give their support to the HITZ programme.
Robinson was joined on stage by Northampton Saints’ Harry Mallinder and Saracens’ full-back Andrew Fenby alongside GB Wheelchair rugby legend Steve Brown.
Robinson, who won the 2003 World Cup and earned 51 caps for England, presented the Best Rugby Performer Award to Leicester Tigers’ Ryan Driver on behalf of Land Rover, who supports the award.
Robinson said: “I was once in the same situation as many of the youngsters on the HITZ programme and rugby was the motivator for me to turn my life around for the better, just as it is doing for Ryan. The sport has given me so much, not just through playing but meeting the extended rugby family. That is one of the real successes of HITZ; it gives youngsters a support network.
“Land Rover understands rugby and recognises the importance of rewarding the youngsters who are making major changes to their lives through HITZ.”
· Community Impact Award, supported by Wooden Spoon. Winner: Jack Clarke of Exeter Chiefs
· Young Ambassador, supported by Premiership Rugby. Winner: Stanna Shaylor of Wasps
· Best Rugby Performer, supported by Land Rover. Winner: Ryan Driver of Leicester Tigers
· HITZ Champion Award, supported by Comic Relief. Winner: Ian Fennell of Sale Sharks
· HITZ Young Achiever, supported by Barclays. Winner: Kayleigh Simpson of Northampton Saints
Citizen Official Timekeeper of Premiership Rugby provided all shortlisted nominees with a Light-Powered Eco-Drive watch
The HITZ Awards recognise some of the most inspiring young people in England. The HITZ programme delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. See hitzrugby.com