Damian Collins MP hails vital role of rugby at Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards
Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Damian Collins has lauded the vital role rugby plays in transforming the lives of young people.
The MP for Folkestone and Hythe was talking at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards evening in London last Wednesday where 13 volunteers were rewarded for their incredible selfless acts.
Among the beneficiaries was Kerry Simons, who was handed the PLAY Achiever of the Year Award, which recognises those who have overcome physical, cultural or social barriers to become involved in the game.
The Conservative MP championed rugby for helping integrate children into communities as well as the countless health benefits the sport provides.
“Sports clubs have a credibility with people of all ages, particularly younger people, and they can break that barrier to get them to engage with sport in a way other organisations are not able to do,” Collins said.
“But across the country we see rugby clubs engaging with the communities they serve, not just connecting people with sport because they maybe elite athletes of the future.
“We also see them getting people back interested in regular exercise and one of the wonderful things about rugby is that it’s a game for all.
“The well organised programmes can actually do a lot to break down barriers that isolate people from communities and deal with gang culture and anti-social behaviour.
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“It can give people a focus and a stake in society that often many people feel they don’t have anymore, particularly younger people and younger men.”
A tough judging process resulted in 13 being shortlisted and the nominees travelled to London to rub shoulders with English rugby royalty such as Wasps flyer Marcus Watson and Harlequins’ Dave Ward, along with a number of high-profile politicians.
The former Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary singled out praise for the Premiership Rugby initiatives HITZ programme and the work of Saracens in their local communities.
HITZ uses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship to get young people not in education, training or employment (NEET) back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment, and is delivered nationally by England’s 12 professional rugby clubs.
Collins said: “I think they are particularly powerful in dealing with longstanding problems and I have been very impressed with the work HITZ have done for the RFU.
“Saracens also do some amazing community work, I’ve been particularly impressed with the work they have done at HMP Feltham Young Offenders Institute.
“What we’re trying to do on the select committee through our current inquiry on the social impact of sport is to try and celebrate some of those excellent programmes.
“That’s why I wanted to come to the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards this year to see more of the excellent work that is being done all around the country.”