East London Women’s Rugby Club (EL WRFC) has received sponsorship from The Royal Bank of Scotland as it looks to capitalise on increased interest in rugby in the local community.
The club is based a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park in West Ham and is East London’s newest women’s rugby club since its inception in 2012.
The club is run by Dave Thomas, who serves as the club’s chairman, and Fiona Pocock, England rugby international and FRN blogger, who is coaching the women’s team. The club shares its ground with its male counterpart, East London Rugby Club, which has long been connected with promoting equality in sport and giving back to the community. In fact, it was the base of the world’s first openly gay and bisexual friendly rugby team – The Kings Cross Steelers.
Interest in women’s rugby has gained momentum in recent years – thanks in no small part to the success of Pocock’s England team – and is one of the fastest growing participation sports in the country. The RFU says that more than 13,500 women and girls now play ruby regularly – an 87% increase since 20041.
With woman’s rugby confirmed as an Olympic event for 2016, EL WRFC is hoping to help grow the game’s popularity among young women in the heart of London and with 25 members already on the books, the money from RBS will be utilised to purchase new equipment and help promote the side and raise awareness of the game in the local community.
Pocock said “I jumped at the chance to work with Dave and coach the girls here. It is something I’ve always wanted to do, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the funding from RBS.”
The main focus for us right now is to grow the club’s numbers, to give the chance to women from all walks of life, from right here in West Ham, to those working in The City. We feel it is important to make rugby accessible for as many women as we can,” Pocock said.
Dave Thomas, director of FRN partner, The Foundry, said: “Having played rugby all my life, I’ve been part of many teams throughout the UK, and with my previous work with School of Hard Knocks, have seen how much good the game can do for a community. As soon as this opportunity arose, I got in touch with Fiona and with the financial help from RBS we began this journey to help women play a sport we believe is not just fun to play but teaches you valuable skills that can be utilised in everyday life. We are absolutely delighted that RBS have chosen to support our ambitions – without them none of it would be possible.”
The RBS involvement was spearheaded by Neil Rudge, Managing Director, London Client Coverage who said: “Rugby has always been a sport associated with the bank, given our sponsorship of the 6-nations, but we are always looking for ways to help local communities and rugby clubs are a fantastic way of doing so.”
With this kind of influx of money into the London women’s rugby community, could London become the hot spot for growing community rugby? Let’s hope so…