Bristol Rugby’s Eagle Project scooped up the PLAY Award at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards in Westminster.
The recently-promoted club’s project was named as the award winner at an illustrious ceremony held at the House of Commons last night.
Premiership Rugby’s PLAY Award supported by Restart Rugby recognises projects that encourage participation in rugby across the full spectrum of social groups across the country.
It is designed to improve standards, promote inclusivity and increase involvement among those groups not traditionally active in rugby, with Chairman of Trustees for Restart Rugby, Bill Page excited to see the difference the sport he loves can play in people’s lives.
“We’re thrilled to be supporting Premiership Rugby’s PLAY Award,” he said.
“It’s fantastic to see how the shortlisted programmes have inspired so many young people by promoting inclusivity and encouraging rugby participation.
“In addition to the obvious physical benefits that come with playing rugby, each of these initiatives has played a vital role teaching young people life skills that will help them to make positive contributions to their local communities.”
Judges whittled down the entries to a short-list of three, with Bristol Rugby’s Eagle Project beating stiff competition from Harlequins’ Wheelchair Rugby programme and Saracens’ BLAST initiative.
Each of the 12 Premiership Rugby sides participate in groundbreaking community schemes such as Aviva Tackling Numbers, HITZ, On The Front Foot, Rugby 4 All, Something To Chew On, Move Like A Pro and Urban Rugby Squad.
Bristol’s Eagle Project is another such initiative and works with Bristol Ladies Rugby, secondary schools in the area and Bristolian rugby clubs to grow the girls’ and ladies’ game.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Francesca Broadbent, as well as Heather Smith from Women in Sport and Rachel Zaltzman from the Equality and Human Rights Commission judged the Eagle Project to have had the biggest community impact of the nominees.
Zaltzman said the project shows positives signs for further expansion.
“The project is smart, sustainable and scalable,” she said. “If they have additional funding I think it could go right across the area and really deliver rugby for girls from school, into their communities and up to a county and national level.
“They are going for a real end-to-end approach, working in schools and taking them through to clubs, forging a great retention rate in girls playing through their own initiative.”
The project was launched after its now key stakeholders approached Bristol Rugby for help in growing female participation back in 2012.
Since then it has reached ten secondary schools, per academic year, with each school receiving one session a week for 12 to 14 weeks staged over two terms.
The schools were specially chosen due to their proximity to the identified clubs who have the capability to provide out-of-school continuation for the girls who want to continue with the sport.
When surveyed, 100 per cent of the Year 8 girls involved in the scheme said they had they had learned new skills through the project and Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme and Vice-Chair of the Rugby Union All Party Parliamentary Rugby Group, praised the project’s impact.
“Congratulations to Bristol Rugby’s Eagle Project for winning the PLAY Award,” he said.
“The programme demonstrates how Premiership Rugby clubs can grow the game at the grassroots level and promote physical activity.”
To read more about Premiership Rugby’s community programmes, please visit premiershiprugby.com/community or join the conversation #RugbyChangingLives