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Bristol Rugby, Harlequins and Saracens shortlisted for national award


Three innovative programmes have been shortlisted for the prestigious PLAY award ahead of the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards.

An innovative wheelchair rugby programme, one that inspires young people and a project focussing on participation in the women’s and girls game have made their way onto a shortlist of Premiership Rugby’s PLAY Award that recognises projects that encourage rugby participation in across the full spectrum of social groups in England.

It is designed to improve standards, promote inclusivity and increase involvement among those groups not traditionally active in rugby.

The judging panel for the PLAY award chaired by Kenny Brown, PLAY – Development Manager, Premiership Rugby included Ben McGregor, RPA, David Mullen, Ernst & Young, Jug Johal, Asian Sports Foundation, Monika Orolinova, Ricoh.

The panel managed to whittle the entries down to a short-list of three that are all doing a fantastic job of promoting rugby union.

The full shortlist for the PLAY award is:

  • Bristol Rugby’s Eagle Project
  • Harlequins’ Wheelchair Rugby coaching programme
  • Saracens’ BLAST

The Harlequins Foundation teamed up with Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby to deliver a six-week coaching programme with the end goal being participation in the inaugural BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge 15 Community Festival held at the Copper Box, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Bristol Rugby’s Eagle project increased participation in the girls and ladies’ game in Bristol by engaging with those not traditionally involved in sports at carefully chosen secondary schools using innovative methods and creating partnerships with locals clubs.

Saracens’ BLAST programme has inspired young people to develop teamwork, leadership, sportsmanship, respect and honesty through rugby participation and is now in its fourth year, working across 22 schools in North London.

David Mullen of EY’s Economic Advisory Team was handed the difficult task of distinguishing between these three outstanding candidates, with the winner set to be revealed on 7 July at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards.
He said: "We looked at how many bodies were involved, the degrees of partnership, the sustainability of the programmes, their ability to impact people during the designated timescale and their potential to deliver lasting change.  

"The game itself clearly has the ability to deliver health benefits – mental as well as physical – but it must inspire people, give them the opportunity to develop as individuals and provide a pathway for the future.

"It wasn’t just about people coming together for a day and having a great time, it was equally about changing perceptions and helping grow the game going forward.

"The winners were particularly inclusive. It was about giving the opportunity for large groups of people to get involved in rugby in different ways and in ways that suited them."

The winner of the award will be announced on Thursday 7 July at the illustrious Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards at the Terrace Pavilion, House of Commons, and on Twitter via the @premrugby account. Use the hashtag #RugbyChangingLives to join the conversation.

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BATH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Maro Itoje of  Saracens is tackled by Max Lahiff of Bath during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Saracens at the Recreation Ground on December 3, 2016 in Bath, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)