Premiership Rugby's new programme aimed at getting more women, black and minority ethnic communities involved in rugby union is destined for success, says Minister for Sport Helen Grant MP.

"There's a tremendous opportunity in this scheme to make the sport of rugby accessible and appealing."
Premiership Rugby has been awarded £600,000 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to encourage participation and help impart rugby's ethos of teamwork, discipline, enjoyment, respect and sportsmanship.

The Minister was joined for the launch at Burgess Park Community Sport Centre on Wednesday morning by Paralympic champion Lord Holmes, who is the Disability Commissioner at the EHRC.

Sporting Equals' Arun Kang, England women's World Cup heroes Tamara Taylor and Claire Purdy, and Saracens' England U20 captain Maro Itoje, alongside Harlequins prop Darryl Marfo, were also present to see local girls enjoy a coaching session.

"Getting more women involved in sport is absolutely one of my priorities," said the Minister. "Sport is powerful; it's a great leveller, it has the ability to change lives, it has the ability to bring people together.

"There is still a 1.9 million gender gap between the number of women doing sport and the number of men.

"Projects like this one, the women winning the World Cup, 7s being played in the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015 will help that process.

"There's a tremendous opportunity in this scheme to make the sport of rugby accessible and appealing.

"Premiership Rugby and EHRC are the right people to do it and I think they'll be successful."

The new programme will provide 7,200 secondary school girls with rugby in appealing formats (touch, non-contact and sevens), and 480 female teachers and volunteers will be trained to support the growth of girls rugby.

In addition, Premiership Rugby will grow the game within black and minority ethnic groups by recruiting and training 240 BME coaches.

In high BME communities 1,800 primary school children will be given opportunities to try rugby, with taster sessions for 600 11-15 year olds, leading will be provided with 240 going into a player development programme.

An active sportswoman at school (having represented Cumbria in four sports), the Minister was excited to see the values she learned reflected in the girls involved in the programme.

She said: "Sport wasn't just about the health and fitness element for me. It gave me self-confidence as a small girl growing up in the north.

"It also taught me important life lessons as well which are part of the ethos of this scheme, lessons of leadership, teamwork, discipline and respect.

"I'm passionate about what Premiership Rugby is doing, because I want to make sure as Minister for Sport, that as many young people as possible have those same benefits from being involved in sport as I did.

"Looking around today at these young girls and their enjoyment, I think it's going to be marvellous."

Published in Grass Roots