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Premiership Rugby clubs help in their local communities at Christmas

Premiership Rugby clubs help in their local communities at Christmas

Christmas is traditionally a time for giving, and when it comes to the HITZ programmes across Premiership Rugby and the clubs it’s no different.

Gloucester Rugby, Northampton Saints and Harlequins, to name a few, have all been busy giving back in the local community during the lead-up to the festive period, with a variety of initiatives designed to help tackle homelessness across the country.

Gloucester reached out to almost 80 people who sleep on the streets or in supported accommodation by giving them a hot meal, working alongside Gloucester City Mission and Gloucester Rugby Community Charity.

Performance chef Will Carvalho cooked the festive feast, with all the trimmings, which was set-up, served and cleared away by about ten academy players.

The club also donated dozens of warm clothing items, which will be given out by the charity to those who need it.

Working alongside them were seven HITZ students enrolled in the club’s award-winning Premiership programme, which uses rugby’s core values to help disadvantaged teenagers into education, training, apprenticeships and employment.

The afternoon was overseen by the club’s community education manager Helen Chu, community sports inclusion officer Matt Liddiard, academy performance manager Kevin Mannion and Matt Russell, the club’s HITZ officer.

“It’s a good chance to give back to the community but also a good chance to get our academy lads and HITZ students to see the impact they can have,” said Russell.

“It was good to see people who normally stick to their own groups open up and talk to people from all walks of life.

“Not just homeless people or those who have fallen on hard times but charity workers or the academy boys.

“They are integrating a lot better and we are seeing their social skills and them wanting to give back to their communities. It shows they care about where they are from.”

In Northampton, the Saints’ Foundation teamed up with local business Portman Asset Finance to deliver £1500 of care packages to rough sleepers in the city.

Representatives from the foundation, along with Saints full-back Harry Mallinder, visited the city’s Hope Centre to donate 100 care packages to those in need this Christmas.

The Hope Centre, which has been running for over 40 years, provides a warm, inclusive and welcoming environment for anyone over 18 in need. It gives access to healthy, affordable food, as well as many other facilities to improve the lives of rough sleepers.

“We’d never worked with homeless charities before. But we contacted the Hope Centre, and the decision was taken to assemble 100 care packages for the homeless that use the centre,” said Jordan Letts, Social Inclusion Manager at Northampton Saints.

“This is the first time it’s been done, and we are going to continue to work with the Hope Centre – to build the relationship. This is the first meeting we have had with them and it went very well.

“It was a one-off Christmas programme as we were looking at what else we could do to help the local community over the Christmas holiday.

“I’m sure we’ll do something for them every year now.”

In London, several Harlequins staff members could be found dishing out the hot drinks at a lunch, hosting between 60 and 70 of Richmond’s homeless population at Twickenham Stadium.

The guests were treated to a three-course meal before being taken on a tour of the historic stadium.

HITZ officer and club Education Officer Mark Kilgallon was in attendance with programme participant Alistair, with both serving up teas and coffees to greet the guests.

“From what it looked like, the people who came along were very thankful and enjoyed themselves,” said Mark.

“It was a good three hours for themselves to let their hair down. You could see that they were relaxed, and just happy.

“Me and my HITZ student did all the teas and coffees along with a couple of others from Harlequins that came along.

“We were the first point of call when they needed a warming up, so we gave them the teas and coffees, it was nice.”

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