Youngsters in Leicester’s South Asian community will be given increased opportunities to become involved in rugby thanks to funding from one of the RFU’s Activation and Legacy Groups.

    The Group in Area Four, which covers a large geographical area including Leicestershire, Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire, East Midlands (Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire) and Eastern Counties (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk) is one of six that was established to help the RFU deliver a lasting and effective legacy from hosting this year’s Rugby World Cup.

    The Area Four group, under the chairmanship of former England and Leicester Tigers captain Peter Wheeler, has been particularly proactive and has forged close links with a number of major companies in the area.

    The generosity of those companies, most of which are major employers in the area, has helped the Area Four Activation and Legacy Group to raise more than £200,000 which is being invested into grassroots rugby across the our Constituent Bodies.

    Clubs, schools and CBs have been encouraged to apply for funding for projects which meet the RFU’s seven RWC legacy strands – better facilities, investing in people, more schools, returning players, touch rugby, other nations and cultural engagement – and grants have already been awarded for a number of innovative schemes across the region including one to increase rugby participation in under-represented ethnic communities in Leicester.

    The scheme is a joint initiative between the Area Four Activation and Legacy Group, Leicester City Council and the British Asian Rugby Association, which was set up in 2004 by Ikram Butt, the first British Asian to represent England at either code of rugby.

    BARA operates across both rugby codes and has a history of campaigning for equality and inclusion for Asian communities in rugby and delivering tangible projects which break down cultural and religious barriers and provide sporting benefits to a much under-represented minority ethnic community.

    “The aim is to get a collaboration between the existing RFU All Schools programme and a stronger link into clubs for those from an Asian background in Leicester. There is a recognition that the Asian and  black communities in Leicester are underrepresented and previous efforts have not quite been successful,” said Andy Reed OBE, the former Labour MP for Loughborough who chairs the Area Four Activation and Legacy funding group.

    “We are working with BARA to help bring in Asian rugby role models including Ikram Butt. We are doing traditional work, coaching and mentoring, but also educating the coaches and clubs about the barriers that Asian youngsters face in taking up rugby. Ikram and BARA will go into the community to help sell rugby to families and parents.

    “The aim of the funding we have provided is to do additional work in the schools and clubs with role model visits into the city.

    “This is a 12 month project with BARA raising the profile of rugby in schools, at community events and with community leaders. We will also be taking rugby into Asian community events speaking to community leaders and attending the annual Mela which celebrates Asian arts and culture.”

    Butt, who also played international rugby union for Pakistan, has been responsible for bringing international teams from India and Pakistan to play rugby in England to help promote the sport and  increase equal inclusion for minority ethnic communities.

    “Through the partnership with Leicestershire Rugby Union, Leicester City Council and Andy Reed OBE, we hope to take advantage of the Rugby World Cup to reach out, engage and raise aspirations to the wider communities in Leicester with the aim of providing opportunities and creating pathways for under-represented minority ethnic communities to be involved in all sections of rugby,” Butt said.

    “The project has four strands –  school, community and club engagement along with creating pathways to mainstream activities.  BARA will focus on providing positive role models to deliver assemblies and coaching sessions within the school / club and community environment.  BARA will also lead on workshops educating coaches and club officials, covering religious and cultural awareness of local communities,’ added Butt.

    The companies who have provided funding for legacy schemes in Area Four were invited as guests to two high profile dinners in the region at which the Webb Ellis Cup, the Rugby World Cup Trophy, was present, the first at Rugby School, the birthplace of the sport, and the other at Cambridge University.

    “What the Activation and Legacy Group has done is to successfully engage with the local business community and, through their generosity, to generate a significant amount of money which is being used to assist clubs, schools and CBs in Area Four through an application process,” said Alan Royer, the RFU Area Four manager.

    “The application process is on-going and we will continue to assess future applications and distribute funds across the four CBs to support legacy programmes.”

    Companies who have generously supported the RFU Area Four Activation and Legacy Group are:

    Finning UK, DX Group, Fablink UK Ltd , Holland & Barrett, Kingfisher Lighting, Bennie Group, Caterpillar, Travis Perkins and Next PLC

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