The club, East London Women’s Rugby Club (EL WRFC), is based a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park in West Ham and was started in 2012. Run by Dave Thomas, chairman of The East London Woman’s Rugby Football Club, and Fiona Pocock, England international rugby star and now coach of the new women’s team, it shares its ground with its male counterpart, East London Rugby Club. The club has long been connected with promoting equality in sport and giving back to the community and 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, governing body of rugby union in England, says that more than 13,500 women and girls now play ruby regularly – an 87% increase since 2004.
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. With 25 members already on the books of the club, the money from RBS will be utilised to purchase new equipment and help promote the side as well as raise awareness of the game among the local community.
"I obviously love the game of rugby and am privileged to play for my country. It’s a fantastic sport for a number of reasons. It helps with your health, your self-belief and your self-discipline as well as much, much more. 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. Local universities have already provided a number of new joiners and with the help from RBS and the local council, I’m proud to see the club and the game continuing to grow."
Fiona Pocock, head coach of EL WRFC
Dave Thomas, director of health and fitness business The Foundry and a trustee of the rugby charity School of Hard Knocks, a social inclusion scheme that uses the game of rugby to teach participants crucial life lessons and core values, has seen first-hand how sport can help a community. He commented:
"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"
"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. The team at EL WRFC are the sort of passionate individuals who we love to work with. They share our goal of giving back to local people who may not have the opportunities available to others. Not only is the club situated in the centre of Olympic territory, but being so close to the City – a place where open sporting fields are so difficult to come across – it is a fantastic place for people from diverse walks of life to come together and participate in a healthy atmosphere. We are absolutely thrilled to be helping the women’s game in the area, to be working with the club and with Fiona, and we are excited about the club and the sport in general continuing to grow."
Neil Rudge, Managing Director, London Client Coverage