Premiership Rugby and Gallagher are celebrating a major milestone, as their award-winning Project Rugby Programme reaches its fifth anniversary, with the announcement that the programme has engaged more than 13,000 people with disabilities across England.
To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) today, Premiership Rugby, in partnership with Gallagher and the RFU, revealed that since its launch in 2017, as well as involving many thousands of new participants with disabilities in the sport, it has led to the creation of 22 new Mixed Ability teams across England.
IDPD aims to shine a light on the transformative solutions for improved inclusivity and promote a greater understanding of disability issues, with sport being haloed as an exemplar sector of doing this well, and doing this right.
Wayne Morris, Community and CSR Director at Premiership Rugby said: "Project Rugby is a great example of how much impact sport can have in breaking down the barriers faced by those with disabilities. The mixed ability format allows players of all abilities to work side by side, increasing the understanding and compassion of those without a disability whilst showing disabled people they can enjoy and indeed excel in sport."
The Project Rugby programme which is run in conjunction with Gallagher and England Rugby was launched to introduce as many people as possible to the benefits of rugby.
One person who sings the praises of Project Rugby, describing it as being life-changing is Alice Beere from Bath.
Introduced to rugby via the Bath Rugby Foundation, the players and staff provided a lifeline for Alice during an extremely difficult period of illness which saw her undergo a bone marrow transplant following a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia. As her fitness returned, Alice joined the Bath Ladies Trojans (BLTs), a mixed-ability team and she has gone from strength to strength now taking on the role of Vice Captain.
Alice said "Since a young age, taking part in regular sport has been a struggle for me due to illness. This impacted me at school as I couldn’t join in with my classmates. Being introduced to the team at Bath was life-changing for me. My condition has never been an issue – everyone on and off the pitch have really encouraged and supported me. I only wish I had found rugby sooner."
Wayne Morris, adds: "We believe that a person’s background or ability should not be a barrier to them enjoying the many benefits which come from playing sport and the club teams work hard to provide opportunities for people to participate at a time and place that can be easily accessed. Accessibility is often a huge barrier to participation so we wanted to make it as easy as possible, and create a welcoming environment where players could thrive when they joined us. The mixed ability format ensures any pre-conceptions are left at the door – everyone is equal on the pitch."
Charlie Scott, rugby fan and Executive Director at Gallagher said: "We are very proud of the success of Project Rugby in encouraging trial and regular participation of rugby by people living with a disability. Mixed ability rugby is just that - diverse players ranging in ability all playing together. As well as the physical and mental well-being benefits, playing rugby develops self-confidence and resilience whilst the sense of team helps reduce feelings of isolation by building connections and friendships locally."
For more information on Project Rugby and to find a mixed ability session near you, visit www.projectrugby.co.uk