The Ospreys have today announced details of a new award scheme aimed at celebrating the contribution of volunteers to community rugby across the region, which is the first of its kind in Welsh rugby.
The scheme will be run as a joint venture with not for profit organisation Clubman of the Year Ltd, and it is anticipated that the awards will see up to 50,000 pumped into the community game in Ospreylia annually. The Clubman of the Year Awards has the full backing of a number of high profile Welsh rugby figures including Wales and British Lions legends Scott Gibbs and JPR Williams, who will sit on the judging panel ahead of a glitzy award ceremony at the Liberty Stadium in September.
Clubman of the Year will recognise the contribution of the unsung heroes of community rugby in the region, the people who give up their time to make it possible for others to play and watch the game, be they coaches, administrators, fundraisers or one of the many other roles that need carrying out in order for 15 players to take to the field. As well as bringing together every one of the 72 clubs within the Ospreys region to honour these volunteers, there is a serious side to the awards, as they also aim to make a significant financial contribution to the grass roots game via prize money and proceeds from the event itself. Each club in the region will be given up to four free places for the awards ceremony itself, ensuring that the night is an accurate reflection of the game in Ospreylia.
The judging panel is headed by legendary full-back JPR Williams who takes the post of Chairman. As well as Scott Gibbs, he will be joined on the panel by Ospreys and Wales skipper Ryan Jones, Wales record try scorer Shane Williams and David Evans, Sports Editor of the South Wales Evening Post. Ospreys Strategic Development Manager Paul Thorburn and Clubman of the Year Ltd Trustee Tony Harrison are joint Project Managers overseeing the organisation of the event.
Speaking about the awards, Paul Thorburn said:
The Ospreys are delighted to throw our weight behind the Clubman of the Year Awards, as the concept sits comfortably within our own regional development plan and our long term commitment to the development of community rugby. Volunteers are the backbone of community rugby, and community rugby is the breeding ground for long-term success. If you take a look at the Ospreys squad, you will see players who first picked up a rugby ball at the local rugby club, be it Abercrave RFC, Mumbles RFC or wherever, and without that first opportunity they may never have developed into the players they are today.
The Clubman of the Year awards recognise the contribution and commitment of each and every individual involved in this fantastic game right across the Ospreys region and will reward some of the many unsung heroes without whom the game could not operate as we know it. The financial contribution it will make can only help to develop this infrastructure, helping to ensure a bright future for rugby in Ospreylia.
Tony Harrison of Clubman of the Year added:
These awards are unique in that they are the first to focus exclusively on the clubmen and women of the community game. Each and every one of them are stars in their own right and it is only right that they receive the credit for the hard work that they put in all year round on behalf of their clubs.
We are delighted that the Ospreys have agreed to partner us and become the first region to participate in this scheme. They have supported and encouraged the idea since taking part in the initial consultation exercise at the beginning of the year as they truly believe in the awards, and that the long term success of the region begins with the clubs that represent the many communities that make up Ospreylia.
JPR Williams, Chairman of the judging panel commented:
Im honoured to be invited to chair the judging panel for the first ever Clubman of the Year Awards on behalf of the Ospreys and Clubman of the Year Ltd. The work that goes on behind the scenes at rugby clubs right across Wales is little short of immense and its fantastic to be able to provide an opportunity for the real heroes of Welsh rugby to receive the plaudits they deserve.
Ospreys and Wales skipper Ryan Jones added:
These awards are a fantastic idea, its great to see that the people who put in so many hours free of charge to enable rugby clubs right across the region to operate finally getting some recognition. Everybody who has ever played for their local club will know of plenty of people who work hard to make it possible so Im sure there will be no shortage of worthy candidates.
The categories are Clubman (or woman) of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Community Rugby, with awards being handed out for achievement and contribution to both senior and under-18 rugby. In addition, as a not-for-profit event, all proceeds will be reinvested into the community game via a fund that will be used to award grants to clubs enabling them to invest in facilities and equipment.
The gala dinner and presentation evening will take place at the Liberty Stadium on Thursday September 25th. The Ospreys will make direct contact with their member clubs over the coming weeks to outline and explain the nomination process.