Lovejoy Chawatama joined Premiership Rugby and title partner Gallagher to celebrate the award winning Project Rugby participation programme engaging over 100,000 new players with the sport.
Project Rugby: Participation Hits Huge Milestone

Staines Rugby Club played host to over 100 young players from across the country at a Project Rugby Festival to mark meeting this milestone which is testament to Premiership Rugby and the clubs’ ambition to improve inclusivity and representation in the game.

Chawatama, Harlequins Tighthead Prop who first picked up a rugby ball aged 7 at primary school in Zimbabwe said; “I remember the feeling of playing as a child, just running around with the ball in my hand, playing with friends and being physical, nothing beats it. You can see a big difference now in the sport – there are a lot more ethnic minority players coming into the game and that’s thanks to programmes like Project Rugby. It’s bringing in people from so many different backgrounds and moving the game in a different direction – it’s great to see!”.

Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director, Premiership Rugby continues: “Reaching this milestone of 100,000 participants is proof that together with our partners Gallagher we are engaging a new generation of rugby players. Our biggest challenge is to change the perception of rugby and show that anyone can pick up a ball no matter their background or ability.”

The diversity we see here today is proof that Project Rugby works. If we can open these young people’s eyes to the benefits of playing the game, we can support and guide them to continue to play rugby at their local grassroots clubs fuelling the game with amazing talent. Crucial to this is that we utilise our network of clubs and their foundations - it is thanks to their incredible work that we have shifted the dial on diversity in rugby.”

Project Rugby focuses on the recruitment of participants from underrepresented groups, these include women and girls, people with disabilities, and those from ethnically diverse or lower-social economic (DEC/LSEG) backgrounds. Premiership Club Community and Foundation teams reach out to local community groups and schools to provide easily accessible opportunities to trial and play rugby. Currently the programme is delivered in over 200 locations nationwide.

Morris continues: “The success rates of Project Rugby speak for themselves. Not only have over 100,000 young people picked up a ball for the first time, independent participant research shows that within three months of them taking part in a Project Rugby session 84% want to play more rugby. 150 grassroots clubs have benefitted from new players and 22 new mixed ability teams having been created*.”

One young player who was introduced to the sport via a Project Rugby session is Mason 13 year old who attended today’s celebration with their team from Oasis Academy Leesbrook.

Project Rugby: Participation Hits Huge Milestone

“I never knew what rugby was until I was encouraged by my PE Teacher to try the Project Rugby sessions at school. Now I love it, I think I’ve found my sport! Playing gives me confidence, it’s such a buzz and I feel like I belong. I’m hopeful I can play for my local club too.”

Insurance broker and risk management company Gallagher has been supporting rugby at both a community and professional level since 2018, through its partnership with Premiership Rugby. The Project Rugby sessions use flexible delivery models easily adapted to suit participants’ needs to build confidence. For example, the mixed ability format allows players of all abilities to work side by side, increasing understanding and compassion by those without a disability whilst showing disabled people they can enjoy and excel in sport. It harnesses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship to develop skills which will stay with players for life both on and off the pitch.

“We’re hugely passionate about Project Rugby and share a commitment with Premiership Rugby to grow the game at a community level by taking Project Rugby to groups who previously had no interest or association with the game.. By breaking down barriers to playing, and by championing inclusivity together, we can make sure more people get the chance to enjoy the benefits of this great sport.” said Sarah Griffiths, Director of Marketing and Communications at Gallagher.

Chawatama concludes: “Today has been incredible – to see so much talent, so many different faces, gives me hope that we will see teams developing which are more reflective of society in which we live. I may have inspired them but after meeting them I am more inspired than ever to go out on the pitch and represent these kids, they will be in the back of my mind and drive my performance to show how rugby can be anyone’s sport.”