Fabulous Support from Leicester

Leicester has always been a big sporting city, boasting top rugby with Tigers, and Premier League football with Foxes, both teams currently in 8th position in their respective leagues. Who can forget the Foxes famously winning the Premier League in 2016? Or the rich history that Tigers can boast with so many greats that have worn the Tigers shirt from Clive Woodward and Martin Johnson through to the Youngs brothers today.

And that is not forgetting basketball with the Riders currently topping the BBL – a big thanks to them as we will be hosting the Quad Nations at their stadium the Leicester Arena. But the sporting heritage goes much wider and the city and broader county has rich and varied sporting opportunities. Few will know that my own sporting background started there as I began life as a PE student at the then Loughborough Colleges and my first teaching practice was at Lancaster Boys School in Leicester City, where I was mentored by John Duggan who was the then glamour wing for the Tigers.

Along with Quad Nations Event Director Martyn Salt, I visited Tigers last week and learnt that John is still heavily involved in Leicestershire sport so I hope to catch up with him in the next few weeks. It was a pleasure to catch up with Tigers’ Head of Community Scott Clarke and Josh Black who is working with our Stuart McLindon to give a number of schools the opportunity to play wheelchair rugby and be part of the Quad Nations experience. Scott and the Foundation see sport as a way of enriching life opportunities for people – so very in tune with our own strategy of helping to build life enriching, vibrant wheelchair rugby communities. The Tigers Foundation already support our own Leicester Tigers Wheelchair Rugby club and it was great to hear Scott’s aspirations for the team and to know how much he sees it as a core part of the wider Tigers story.  Currently Josh and Stuart have delivered wheelchair rugby to Judgemeadow and Limehurst schools in Leicester with Robert Smyth and Sketchley School the next on the list. We are expecting at least a dozen schools to attend the Quad Nations and hopefully this number will grow.

Whilst in Leicester Martyn and I attended a city business networking lunch and were able to talk to local business leaders about the Quad Nations. We have had great support with this from Rob Coltman who manages the Ramada Encore, our event hotel and from the Leicester Enterprise Partnership who have linked us to local businesses and schools. It is fantastic to see such a huge amount of interest and support for the Quads and we are still following up on this now and hope to make some announcements soon about partners. We are delighted to bring on board the Leicestershire media company Fraser Urquhart as our media partner for the event and they are already busy promoting it. The lunch took place in the multi-award winning restaurant Chutney Ivy which will also be the venue for the post tournament team dinner and awards evening.

The GB squad came together this week at Lilleshall for the Quad Nations selection camp. I spoke with the Head Coach this morning and he found it hard to hold back his excitement! It was a very good camp and we will be announcing the team selected to represent GB at the Quad Nations early next week. The camp was also attended by Conor Murphy our newly appointed Talent Coach Manager – our thanks to Professor Vicky Tolfrey at the Peter Harrison Centre in Loughborough for her help with setting up our talent programme.

Away from play it’s been quite a week! It started with an evening and full day Board Strategy session – yes for me it’s as bad as it sounds as I presented among other things my 3 year financial plan and risk assessment to our Trustees with all of the budget gaps begging for questions! Actually I am being unkind as although the board quite properly challenge with searching questions they are also hugely supportive and as committed as any of us to ensuring that we carry on providing the best possible wheelchair rugby experiences for whoever wants to play the game, we are fortunate to have such committed and well qualified people to look after our interests.

Looking ahead, and our first Educator training weekend for officials is on 10-11 Feb in Stoke. This is an important step in our new officiating education programme and will ensure that officials get high quality and consistent training. This will be followed by the officials training day on 10 March in Leicester after which those attending will be able to watch the best teams in the world play in the Quad Nations. On that note if you or your friends have not bought your tickets yet then get yours now! It will be a long time before you see this sort of line up in the UK again.

And what a fabulous way to end my week! An unexpected call from UK Sport to say that its Board was awarding us £50,000 to help fund our participation in the IWRF World Championships in Australia this year. This was a real boost to morale and will be a big help this year. It does not change the fact that we still have to raise around £400,000 every year to get a competitive team to Tokyo but I am hugely grateful to UK Sport for making this year’s target a little easier…. That and the news this morning that Mike Brown is selected for the first game of this season’s 6 Nations are good notes to end my blog on!

David Pond