A unique rugby club which is using sport to tackle the growing problem of knife crime in some of the UK’s most underprivileged communities has been given police funding to support its vital work.
Erdington RFC launched a pilot scheme in January to run coaching sessions for under 15s from four West Midlands schools, focusing on youngsters with known behavioural issues.
The pilot has proved so successful that it has been endorsed by Birmingham Erdington MP, Jack Dromey, West Midlands mayor, Andy Street and West Midlands police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, whose department has provided funding for the club to run a six-week summer camp, which launched this week.
Children from 14 schools across Birmingham have been invited to attend the camp, which will run for three evenings per week during peak times for crime. Youngsters will receive a 90-minute session of rugby training and a hot meal, which they sit down and eat together to foster relationships and improve their social skills.
The club, which was first formed in 1924 and reformed in 2017, is based “among the chimney pots” in one of the most underprivileged areas in the UK.
It has grown dramatically since it reformed, establishing itself as one of the leading grass roots sports clubs in the area, despite having very little in the way of physical facilities and relying on a donated double-decker bus for changing.
Andy Trueman, community officer for Erdington RFC, said: “We pride ourselves on our youth section and currently have around 80 kids training with us each week, across all age groups.
“Our pilot scheme is a big part of this and works thanks to close support from the schools and the police.
“We are confident we are having an impact, based on the feedback from the schools, who have reported improvements in pupil behaviour and reduced detentions.
“We think the summer camp is a great initiative and we are delighted to have secured funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner to make it happen.”
So far, the club has worked with three Erdington schools – Erdington Academy, Stockland Green School and St Edmund Campion Catholic School – as well as Greenwood Academy in Castle Vale.
The summer camp is being expanded to involve children from schools in areas including Erdington, Sutton Coldfield, Aston, Chelmsley Wood, Shard End, Kingstanding, Hodge Hill and Perry Barr.
It is a precursor to a bigger project launching this autumn, called Changing Lives Through Rugby.
The club is working with Birmingham City University on a bid to obtain funding to expand the programme into a full blown study, which would span three school year age group and include both boys and girls.
The intention of the study will be to prove rugby can have a positive impact and ultimately reduce knife crime and anti social behaviour.
One of the club’s main sponsors is local businessman Paul Eyles, managing director of PGS Global Logistics, in neighbouring Kitts Green.
Paul donated the double-decker bus, which he fitted out with changing rooms and showers to help the club compensate for its lack of facilities.
He said: “He said: “The club is a huge asset to the community and its work has already made a massive difference. It is now turning its attention to try and tackle knife crime which, as we know, is an extremely serious issue – both here in Birmingham and across the country.
“The fact it has secured police funding for its latest inititiative is a huge feather in the cap and goes to show just how important its work is.”
For more information on Erdington RFC, visit: www.erdingtonrfc.com.