Matt Banahan, Ross Batty and Charlies Ewels have been rolling back the years, dusting off their old childhood memorabilia and reminiscing about their first grassroots amateur sports clubs in support of this year’s Aviva Community Fund.
The trio shared memories of their earlier years, revealed how they were introduced to their clubs, recalled their Sunday morning sessions followed by sausage and chips, and explained how grassroots clubs helped them to achieve their dreams of becoming professional rugby players.
The Aviva Community Fund, a nationwide initiative that lends a helping hand to grassroots sports clubs and community causes, has reopened for a second year to offer funding of between £1,000 and £25,000.
This year, Aviva, the proud title sponsor of Aviva Premiership Rugby, has introduced a ‘Sport in the Community’ category, which means the hundreds of thousands of grassroots sports clubs across the UK can apply or reapply for funding in a sport-specific category this time around. The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 11th October.
Banahan, whose first sports club was actually a hockey club in Jersey, said: “Any opportunity to improve facilities or training areas for amateur clubs like these can have a massive benefit. Some clubs have big support from members and children but getting the equipment and facilities up to scratch goes a long way. It’s all the way through amateur rugby you play to enjoy it. Playing with your friends, that’s what brought me to the game.”
Ewels started out at Bournemouth RFC and recalls: “I started at Bournemouth. I didn’t like football and thought I would give rugby a try, so my dad started taking me. I remember eating sausage and chips in the clubhouse afterwards, it was a massive part of my rugby club. Ultimately, everyone has to start somewhere. Rugby clubs are a massive part of the local community whether it’s going down for beers or watching the game – hopefully the Aviva Community Fund can help to support that. Obviously clubs don’t run themselves, they rely on the good work of volunteers, many things are needed to support the club to succeed.”
Batty’s first club was Darlington Mowden Park RFC and he is a big advocate of grassroots sport: “It’s massively important to get a number of young kids involved and having a good time. The more people you can get involved the better standard it brings to the Aviva Premiership. Having the kids out there keeps them out of trouble and if they enjoy it and get into it they are more likely to push on to the senior stuff. If you have more people participating and more people getting coached at that young age it’s going to help them kick on and develop as long as that enjoyment factor is there.”
Pete Markey, Brand & Marketing Communications Director at Aviva UK, said: “The Aviva Community Fund is the perfect way for Aviva to help communities come together and support the grassroots sports clubs and local causes that are central to a strong community. Last year, the Aviva Community Fund helped make a difference to hundreds of projects and causes the length and the breadth of the UK and we look forward to helping even more communities this year.”
To enter your club for a chance to secure funding, visit aviva.co.uk/community-fund or search for ‘Aviva Community Fund’.