A London rugby player has received national RFU recognition for his work creating a more diverse and inclusive environment for local players.
Old Streetonians’ Will Gilgrass was presented with the Game For All award at the Honda Volunteer of the Year Awards at Twickenham in recognition of his instrumental role in the numerous initiatives undertaken by the club.
The Honda Volunteer of the Year awards are part of the Honda Volunteer Recognition Programme which provides a platform to recognise the volunteers who make up such an integral part of the game and who have made a great contribution to their club and community – no matter what their role.
The Game For All award recognises volunteers who have provided an inspiring and diverse offer to engage with their local community, making the game more accessible and providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.
The Hackney Marshes-based outfit are one of only five affiliate members of International Gay Rugby and have set up a bursary scheme in a bid to make the club as welcoming as possible.
Gilgrass was honoured for his role in pioneering these efforts throughout the club during the Covid-19 pandemic, but insists he is not alone in championing the worthy causes. “I wasn’t expecting to win,” admitted Gilgrass, who received his award from TV presenter & broadcaster Alex Payne. “When you were hearing what everyone else was doing, some of the things were amazing.
“When you lay out all the things collectively at Old Street that we’re doing, it is quite impressive but it’s not just the work of me, it’s the work of lots of people.
“There has rightly been an increased focus on diversity and inclusion. We identified that our club is based in one of the most diverse boroughs in London, Hackney, but this wasn’t reflected in our playing base so we looked at things we could do to try and shift that balance.”
The Honda Volunteer of the Year Awards recognise the local heroes who have had a major impact in their clubs and communities and demonstrated their commitment to the game over the past 12 months.
It brings the opportunity to thank those who have gone above and beyond this year for teams, clubs, referees societies and educational establishments.
Shifting the balance is exactly what Gilgrass and his teammates have done through their array of schemes and links with charities. Alongside working with International Gay Rugby, Old Streetonians produced new playing kits adorned with rainbows to raise money for the charity, alongside getting involved in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
“We came across International Gay Rugby and the work that they did, and said how can we show that we’re an inclusive club,” explained Gilgrass.
“We spoke to them and to Stonewall about having the rainbow on our shirts and we sold rainbow laces, then spoke to International Gay Rugby about becoming an affiliate member.
“We’re doing limited edition runs of kit and all the money is going back to help them and the great work they do.”
And being bang in the middle of one of London’s most deprived boroughs, Gilgrass is keen to get more local Londoners kitted out in red, blue, and rainbow.
“We’re looking at reaching out to more community groups through a bursary scheme. We’re looking at how we can drive it forward so that finance and money isn’t a barrier to joining the club,” added Gilgrass.
“We’ve ringfenced a pocket of money so that if people express an interest in wanting to play, we can provide them with the kit that they need and waiving match fees for those who can’t afford it.
“Hopefully that can increase more people from within the community to take up rugby and then hopefully, bring their mates.”
RFU President, Nigel Gillingham, added: “I am delighted that we are able to recognise our volunteers at the Honda Volunteer of the Year Awards.
“The event provides us with an excellent opportunity to thank them for all that they have done.
“Those attending represent a wider army of volunteers nationwide, the very best of our sport, who exemplify our core values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship.”
Volunteers are the backbone of grassroots rugby in England. If you’d like to get involved and make a difference at your community club, visit: www.englandrugby.com/volunteering
Honda (UK) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honda (Japan). One of the top 20 brands in the world, Honda manufacturers a broad product range encompassing cars, motorcycles, power products (including marine, energy, lawn and garden and ATV) and aviation and was the first Japanese automobile manufacturer to release a dedicated luxury brand, Acura, in 1986.
Honda has been the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, as well as the world’s largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year.
Since 1986, Honda has been involved with artificial intelligence/robotics research and released their ASIMO robot in 2000. Honda has also ventured into aerospace with the establishment of GE Honda Aero Engines in 2004 and the Honda HA-420 HondaJet, which began production in 2012.
Honda has over 55 years of World Championship Racing. Today, Honda is an active participant in motorcycle, touring car and ATV racing and draws upon its proud racing heritage in every aspect of business.
For more media information, visit https://hondanews.eu/gb