Our rugby club has been rewarded for our ‘Changing Lives Through Rugby’ campaign, designed at keeping kids away from gang culture and ultimately knife crime, with the ‘golden ticket’ trip of a lifetime to Japan, the host country of the Rugby World Cup.
Andy Trueman, our volunteer community officer, will fly out to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ on October 31 to witness grassroots rugby first hand, courtesy of the RFU and Mitsubishi Cars UK, who wanted to recognise Britain’s unsung heroes behind the community game.
“I have got a lot out of rugby and wanted to put something back and show other people what the game could give to them,” said Andy this week.
“This is an incredible opportunity to see the the culture around Rugby in Japan as well as see the country. I never thought in a million years that I would get through – I don’t even really enjoy flying,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the RFU, former England player Brian Moore who is involved with the recognition initiaitve said: “If we didn’t have volunteers, we would not have a game.”
Andy, who is one of only three volunteers selected to go the Japan, earned his trip after Erdington RFC launched a pilot scheme in January to run coaching sessions for under 15s from four inner city north Birmingham schools, focusing on youngsters who could benefit from the core discplines of rugby.
The pilot has proved so successful that it was endorsed by Birmingham Erdington MP, Jack Dromey, West Midlands mayor, Andy Street and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, whose department has provided funding for the club to run a six-week summer camp.
Children from 14 schools across Birmingham were invited to attend our summer camp, which ran for three evenings per week during peak times for crime. Youngsters received three hour sessions of rugby training and other mixed sports followed by a hot meal, which they sat down and ate together to foster relationships and improve their social skills.
Erdington Rugby Club has grown dramatically since its reform, establishing itself as one of the leading grass roots sports clubs in the area, despite having very little in the way of physical facilities and relying on a donated double-decker bus for changing.
Andy said: “We pride ourselves on our youth section and currently have around 80 kids training with us each week, across all age groups.
“Our pilot scheme is a big part of this and works thanks to close support from the schools and the police. We are confident we are having an impact, based on the feedback from the schools, who have reported improvements in pupil behaviour and reduced detentions.”
The club originally worked with three Erdington schools – Erdington Academy, Stockland Green School and St Edmund Campion Catholic School – as well as Greenwood Academy in Castle Vale. The summer camp was expanded to involve children from schools in areas including Erdington, Sutton Coldfield, Aston, Chelmsley Wood, Shard End, Kingstanding, Hodge Hill and Perry Barr as a precursor to Changing Lives Through Rugby.
One of the club’s main sponsors is local businessman Paul Eyles, managing director of PGS Global Logistics, in neighbouring Kitts Green, and president of Erdington RFC.
He said: “We are so proud of Andy and his passion for the game and the difference it can make to changing lives – he deserves the recognition because the club is now a huge asset to the community.
“Knife crime, as we know, is an extremely serious issue – both here in Birmingham and across the country. The fact he has secured police funding for the initiative is a huge feather in the cap and goes to show just how important its work is.”