The officers – there are currently 83 of them – are part-funded by the WRU and the partner organisations and also work with clubs and other community rugby outlets in their area to provide increased opportunities for all, improving the health and well-being of the nation through rugby.
While rugby activity has largely been curtailed for the majority of the last 18 months, hub officers have still played an important role within their schools, colleges and communities, providing not only physical activity sessions, either online or in person for pupils, but they have often been at the heart of their local community’s COVID-19 response.
The Hub programme is currently in its second, three-year cycle but, due to the impact of the pandemic on physical activity for young people and team sports, the decision has been made to extend the programme for a further 12 months, depending on individual agreement from hub partners on a case-by-case basis.
This is seen as a key initiative in returning Welsh community rugby to full participation and providing a key driver for improving health and well-being, especially given the effects of the pandemic on young people. In addition, funding for 12 additional hub officer posts has been made available as part of the WRU’s £1 million commitment to help restart rugby and achieve its Pathway to Participation. These will be appointed in key target areas of need.
George Tavner, hub officer for Cardiff West High School in Ely [see video], is a great example of that. He is currently working with six feeder primary schools and Caerau and Ely Sports Trust to provide meaningful opportunities for children in one of the areas of highest deprivation in Wales.
He said, It’s all about introducing rugby to the youngsters in the hope that they enjoy it and have a pathway to community club rugby at Caerau (Ely) or Glamorgan Wanderers on a Sunday and it’s been brilliant to see so many of them take to the game.
“We want all children to do positive things and learn skills and values that will serve them well in the future. There is so much enthusiasm for sport in this area but perhaps these children haven’t had as many opportunities in the past as in other areas due to accessibility to community clubs and opportunities. By running this project we are removing any barriers to participation with the Trust purchasing boots and equipment to leave with the school for future use.
Headteacher Kim Fisher said, “The school serves an economically and socially deprived area with almost 60 % free school meals and 40% additional learning needs. By having this activity on site, children are improving their skills and well-being. We have seen improvement in how children are playing and learning together. We now see children playing rugby and more team games on the yard, there is less arguing and confrontation and they are collaborating better through team games which is great to see.”
A review of the WRU Hub Programme is also underway, in partnership with The Open University (OU) and key stakeholders, that is examining the work carried out to date and helping to define, collaboratively, the most meaningful aims and objectives for the third cycle of the Programme, due to be in place in time for the 2022/23 season.
Dr Joanne Jordan, Research Fellow at The Open University, commented: “From our review, it is clear that the Hub programme is making an important contribution to increasing rugby participation across Wales, including in terms of opening up access to young people from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities.
“In addition, the evidence from our review suggests clear benefits for young people in terms of their physical fitness and wider social and emotional well-being, as they have been able to engage in a wide range of activities and roles. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the WRU as the current phase of the Hub programme continues and the next phase comes to fruition.”
WRU Chief Executive Steve Phillips said, “The WRU Hub Programme is a shining light in our Welsh rugby landscape. Hub officers the length and breadth of the country have become real-life role models for young people in educational establishments and within their communities. Not only are they providing inclusive playing and leadership opportunities to help raise fitness standards and skills and improve team work and morale for young people, but we are increasingly being told that hub officers are enabling young people to thrive in other walks of life too, a great illustration of rugby being a vehicle for success and improved outcomes.”
WRU Community Director Geraint John said, “The Hub Programme supports the growth of all aspects of our game and the wider well-being of pupils and students. Hub officers give many pupils and students their first taste of rugby and that is so important, whether they decide to continue with rugby outside school or simply enjoy playing with their school or college friends. Hub officers are also a key link to our clubs, Female Hubs and other community teams which is vital for the sustainability of our game. I’d like to thank our Hub Partners along with their staff and teachers for helping to make the Programme such a success.”
Educational establishments, clubs and other organisations should email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about the Hub Programme.