So at long last our JustGiving funding campaign has started and on day one we had 129 subscribers who generously gave a total of just over £5000. An encouraging start and a massive thank you to those who dug deep at a time when for most money is not plentiful! Now the task is to get the campaign out there in the headlights and really work hard to see how much of the £3million we can raise. It is a huge challenge but it’s one I am up for and having a competitive GB team is something I am passionate about. It would be a massive injustice to those who have overcome huge personal challenges, trained hard and committed themselves to then not have a chance to win a medal when we know how close to the podium the team is. There are a lot of good people behind us. Our ambassador Mike Brown now in the England training camp has still found time to get the message out. Rupert Moon is doing the same for us in Wales. The RFU, though mistakenly targeted by some, is being hugely supportive and its Communications Director, Joanna Manning Cooper, who has been a fan and source of fantastic advice to me over the years, is on our case. Our partner BT has done lots already in support of the campaign including funding most of our visuals and is looking at more ways to get behind us. Dynamo the creative agency who are running the whole campaign are being amazing. It’s joint owner Peter Bowles is a close friend of Johnny Coggan and they go back to schooldays together before Johnny’s accident, so there is real passion from him and Daria, Arun and Lewis who are doing the work. PushLogic who manage our website have been equally amazing and their team worked long into the evening to get the campaign live just after midnight on Thursday. Many of our partners are also pulling out all the stops and just today Harlequins and Premiership Rugby have offered to promote our campaign through their channels. Our Chairman is doing an amazing job talking to many businesses as is Ed Warner, Chair UK Athletics who is very active in our cause. The media too have been brilliant with some excellent copy from the likes of Paul Hayward, Alex Spinks, Ben Rumsby, and Martyn Ziegler as well as a host of local journalists.
For me all of this inspires hope and optimism. As does the humility I feel in reading that someone has made a £5 pledge with the comment that’s ‘its all I can afford now but I will give another £5 next week’. It’s the same humility I feel every time I read Matty’s blog. I have never met Matty but he consistently tweets in support of our cause. Matty lives in Sydney and was paralysed in an accident whilst playing for Melbourne Harlequins and is a huge supporter .He is also a big fan of Mike Brown and Quins and I know Mike visited him when on tour. It’s the humility I feel whenever I watch our volunteers supporting athletes, lugging around equipment and doing all of the important but less exciting jobs like making sure the club books are OK. These behaviours and values I truly believe are at the heart of our sport because they are at the heart of the vast majority of those involved and that is what inspires and drives me in times of challenge such as that we have now. I have no wish to pass judgment on British Cycling but one fears for the soul of the sport and I know that I would rather have our resource and funding challenges than I would have the challenges that cycling face at the moment.
I have always said that the decision not to fund us is one that I find ugly and leaves me really questioning where we have got to with sport. For me sport and rugby in particular was a huge passport to other things. It was something wholesome, it was a rich, classless community and a passport from my working class background and small rugby club in Somerset to University at Loughborough and on to other things. The decision not to fund feels like we are an easy target and even more so when you see some of the revelations coming out now around bigger sports. But for all the reasons above we will get through this providing we continue to live our values and beliefs. Not one of us can afford to be complacent nor to be ‘holier than though’. We need to be vigorous and principled in how we relate to one another, how we manage and use the funds we have, how we support and safeguard our youth and those who are vulnerable, and how we play the game. We have massive public support at the moment, but as cycling has shown such support can very easily be lost if there is any hint of questionable practice and behaviour. We are all human and we all make mistakes but inherently we all know right from wrong and we want to be known for delivering great experiences for anyone who wants to join us within a culture based on the values we as a sport developed together and hold dear. Now let’s all get out there and get that cash rolling in… Tokyo here we come!