On Sunday 2 July Crawley Rugby Football Club hosted a community event to celebrate the end of the ‘Try it’ Spirit of Brighton project. The project is part of the nationwide RFU Spirit of Rugby programme spread across two years and 15 communities with a focus on 16-24 year-olds.
The local project overseen by Active Sussex and delivered by volunteers from the University of Brighton ladies rugby team, supported by local rugby clubs and coaches, aims to raise awareness of disability sport with a focus on mixed ability rugby. The Spirit of Brighton project is funded by Spirit of 2012 – an independent funding body, established by the Big Lottery Fund.
Throughout the last year volunteers have attended local sports events to shout about the project and generate awareness of its aims. The project has also delivered an exhibition match at Brighton Rugby Club, provided training from the International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) association for college students and engaged with local disability charities offering their service users mixed ability rugby sessions run by Worthing Rugby coaches. This has all culminated in a final celebration community event and mixed ability rugby match between host team Crawley Bulldogs and visiting team the Bradford Bumble Bees.
More than 90 players, volunteers and spectators attended the celebration event watching the two teams battle it out on the pitch in the glorious sunshine, showing that anyone can play the game regardless of ability. The final third saw the teams mix up their players with the Bradford Bumble Bees using the game as an opportunity to show Crawley players how they can facilitate disabled participants in the game.
Spectators included the players’ families and local residents, as well as Aldingbourne Trust staff and social group attendees who meet at the Rugby Football Club each month. Several individuals who are supported by the trust through an employability programme now volunteer and work at the club on match days. Henry Smith, MP for Crawley also attended the event to show his support. Henry praised the fantastic work that Crawley Rugby Club are doing within their local community.
Although the funded project has come to an end, it has captured the spirit of many. The aim now is for the work and progress achieved by the volunteers to continue via the local clubs such as Crawley and Worthing who are committed to raising awareness of mixed ability rugby, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to get involved in rugby both on and off the pitch.
To see event pictures and find out more about what the project volunteers have been up to over the last year, visit Spirit of Brighton Facebook page.