From well over 100 grassroots club entries, Erdington emerged as the ultimate winner due to the club’s outstanding community engagement, its success at introducing rugby to inner city children with life-changing consequences, an amazing story of rebirth and rebuild from adversity and the innovative ways it is engaging volunteers.
Out of a strong field, Erdington won the award in recognition of the club's 'Changing Lives Through Rugby' initiative. The programme provides volunteer outreach support to local police on the streets of North Birmingham and offers coaching in local schools in some of the UK’s most underprivileged communities, in order to engage young people at risk of being involved in knife crime. This impressive community engagement programme comes four short years after the club began rebuilding itself in 2016, having been forced to close in 2003 when a major fire burnt down its clubhouse.
From more than 100 entries, six fantastic community clubs were named as finalists for the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award – Battersea Ironsides, Erdington RFC, Haringey Rhinos Ladies, Kingsbridge RFC, Longlevens RFC and Trafford MV RFCC.
The award celebrates and rewards local grassroots clubs that are making a significant contribution to their local community, on and off-the-pitch. Particular focus was placed on how clubs were able to demonstrate inclusivity, as well as the innovative ways in which they have increased participation in the sport at grassroots level.
Video footage captured (see below) the moment former England Rugby international, Harlequins legend and Gallagher ambassador Ugo Monye paid a surprise visit to Erdington RFC to reveal they had won and speak to club representatives about what the award means to them and the wider community.
Andy Trueman, community officer at Erdington RFC, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be crowned winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season. Our club means everything to us and the surrounding community, and we are very grateful to have been recognised for our work in using rugby to make a positive impact in North Birmingham. As well as having the honour of winning this award, we’re also delighted with our enhanced training kit prize, which will allow us to touch the lives of even more people within the community.”
Sarah Griffiths, Director of Communications for Gallagher in the UK, commented: “Giving back to our local communities is incredibly important to everyone at Gallagher and so we created this award to recognise the often life-changing work that is being carried out by grassroots rugby clubs across the country. We are thrilled to be presenting the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award to Erdington RFC who were voted the unanimous winner by all our judges. The club does so much in their local community, despite having such little resources, and it really is not just the lifeblood of their community but also offers a potential life-line for young people by providing them with support, coaching and opportunities to thrive. A truly deserving winner.”
Commitment to inclusion, community and innovation
Erdington RFC’s story is an incredible one. Following the closure of the club in 2003 after its clubhouse was burnt down, it was reformed in 2016 with no facilities or players. Today, the club has grown to include over 100 U18 players, a squad of over 50 senior males and a mixed gender touch rugby team - all from a broad range of backgrounds.
Erdington RFC is located in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, with crime rates at an all-time high. As part of the club’s commitment to giving back to its local community, it has focused its efforts on tacking the growing problem of knife crime by engaging young people in its ‘Changing Lives Through Rugby’ initiative.
This programme invites volunteers to take part in coaching rugby in local schools, as well as providing outreach support on the streets of North Birmingham in partnership with the local police.
An after-school club led by Erdington RFC, targeting pupils with known behavioural issues, also helps participants to build their teamwork skills, teaches them how to control aggression, as well as reinforcing the importance of having respect for authority, with all participants being provided with a hot meal afterwards. All membership, kit, and match fees are waived for club participants, and transport costs are covered for those who need it.
To reward volunteers with their involvement in initiatives run by the club, Erdington RFC has introduced a recognition programme, offering free dinners and international and national league tickets to active participants. In partnership with Birmingham City Council, the club also provides tackle demonstrations at after-school violence hotspots in the city.
Beyond this, Erdington RFC is also planning to engage more mothers and daughters to take part in rugby, through their development of a separate touch rugby coaching session.
Ugo Monye Gallagher ambassador, said: “There was only one winner for me for this competition. Erdington RFC shone amongst the rest of the shortlisted finalists due to their profound commitment to their community, and most notably youth participants, both on and off the pitch. To overcome such adversity in 2003 and get to the point they are at now is quite astounding and proves Erdington RFC is a fantastic winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award.”
Fellow judge and Gallagher ambassador Danielle ‘Nolli’ Waterman added: “Amongst some extremely strong competition, Erdington Rugby Club stood out as a place that has fought against the odds to build themselves back up into a true community club. What they are offering their members is helping to shape and change lives, and I can’t wait to see how this prize helps to support the amazing work they are doing.”
The winning prize
As winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season competition, Erdington RFC will receive an enhanced Gilbert training kit bundle worth up to £2,000 – with all six finalists having already received a training bundle worth £1000.
The public vote was hosted on the Gallagher website and contributed to the overall result, with rugby legends Ugo Monye and Nolli Waterman, and representatives from Gallagher and Premiership Rugby all contributing votes.
To find out more about Gallagher’s involvement in rugby, visit: ajg.com/rugby