Saracens emerged victorious when they met Bath Rugby in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May and the London side once again triumphed over their West Country rivals to win the BreakThru Award at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards tonight.
The BreakThru Award – in partnership with BT Sport – is designed to reward a programme or one-off piece of activity that delivers a significant social change in their community.
Saracens GET ONSIDE! scheme, which uses rugby to engage young men at Feltham Young Offenders Institute and help them turn their lives around, was selected by the four judges ahead of Bath Rugby Foundation’s ‘Stickability’ literacy programme, which was also acclaimed by the panel.
Sarries received their gong at an awards evening at the House of Commons and judge Genevieve Shore, who is a former England international, admits GET ONSIDE! was the deserved winner.
“It’s just an absolutely amazing programme,” said Shore.
“The key headline and why we love the programme is that the national average for reoffending is 78 per cent but for the young men who’ve been through the programme the reoffending rate is ten per cent.
“The biggest thing for us was the social impact – they’ve tackled something really difficult and they’ve put rugby at the heart of it.
“These are young men learning to play rugby and they play a match at the end of the programme, which for some is the first time they’ve played competitive sport at all.
“We like the fact that it was a really difficult social problem and that rugby was at the heart of changing these young men’s lives.”
GET ONSIDE! has been running for two-and-a-half years after being piloted back in 2012 and is a structured, 10-week programme run inside Feltham Young Offenders Institute designed to impart skills for them to thrive in life outside the gates.
The young offenders are taken through rugby training, coaching, fitness and refereeing, as well as being taught a rugby themed personal development and functional skills programme in the classroom.
The initiative, which Saracens hooker and Aviva Community Player of the Year winner Jamie George has been heavily involved with, also includes a structured programme for the young offenders outside the gates to help them re-adapt to life on the outside.
And while Shore acknowledges that GET ONSIDE! warranted the nod, she concedes that the competition from Bath’s ‘Stickability’ scheme, which won the SW Region’s Department for Education Character Award earlier this year, was fierce.
“It was a really difficult decision – the Bath programme was fantastic and they’re tackling a real issue in our country of literacy,” added Shore.
“We like the fact that they were targeting deprived areas and covering a wide area of the West Country.
“They were really measuring the impact of what they were doing and helping children to think differently about challenges in life.”