The Eagle Project is helping women’s rugby soar in the West Country and Bristol Rugby Community Foundation CEO Ben Breeze is confident that the programme will go from strength to strength.
The club were recognised for their outstanding efforts at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards in Westminster on Wednesday night.
They received the Play Award, in association with the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group, which is designed to reward a programme or one-off piece of activity that encourages participation, improvement or excellence in the game of rugby union.
Bristol’s Eagle Project ticked all the boxes, helping to boost development in girls’ rugby by delivering a programme aimed specifically at Year 8, 9 and 10 girls in schools over the academic year.
Indeed such has been the success of the programme, 10 per cent of girls involved are now playing recreational rugby at clubs outside of school.
Harlequins hooker Dave Ward and The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale MP were on hand to present the award and Breeze admitted it was all the more pleasing to be recognised by Premiership Rugby.
“The most gratifying thing about receiving the award is that Bristol Rugby are outside the Premiership,” Breeze said.
“And the work that we do holds such weight within Premiership circles, that it’s such an honour to be included for this award, alongside the great work done by all the Premiership coaches surrounding HITZ and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities.
“It’s needs-driven. In Bristol there are 56 partner clubs but only seven of those clubs have girls rugby sections.
“So we reacted to a need that was given to us by the partner clubs, and the success of the programme is down to non-sporty girls, many from BAME backgrounds. who are given something different.
“They want something structured, fun and engaging and we’re so pleased that it’s had this kind of response.”
The programme’s success is all the more impressive considering the project is entirely self-funded by Bristol – and according to Breeze, that’s not going to hold back further growth.
“We received no guaranteed money at all, myself and community coach Geraint (Lewis) rode 120 miles along with 425 other people on a big scale fundraiser last weekend to raise funds for the Eagle Project,” added Breeze.
“We believe in it so strongly, that all our residual funding goes towards this programme.
“In the future we’re looking for funding bids, expansion and growth – they’re our three big areas to target and partner clubs are queuing up to link the school work we do with them. All we need is the funding to grow the programme."