A BUSINESSMAN from Solihull is supporting an initiative to tackle knife crime in inner-city Birmingham by getting young people involved in rugby.
He has praised volunteers behind the scheme who have been rewarded with a trip of a lifetime to Japan.
Paul Eyles, the managing director of PGS Global Logistics in Marston Green, is president of Erdington Rugby Club, whose Changing Lives Through Rugby campaign secured the trip.
Andy Trueman, the volunteer community officer for Erdington RFC, will fly out to Japan on Thursday (October 31) to witness grassroots rugby first hand, courtesy of the RFU and Mitsubishi Cars UK, who wanted to recognise Britain’s unsung heroes behind the community game.
Paul, who has provided new changing rooms in the shape of a double-decker bus at the club when the pavillion burned down, said: “This is great recognition for the volunteers behind this scheme.
“We are so proud of Andy and his passion for the game and the difference it can make to changing lives – he deserves the recognition because the club is now a huge asset to the community.”
“Knife crime, as we know, is an extremely serious issue – both here in Birmingham and across the country. The fact he has secured police funding for the initiative is a huge feather in the cap and goes to show just how important its work is.”
Andy was delighted at the recognition and was looking forward to the trip.
“I have got a lot out of rugby and wanted to put something back and show other people what the game could give to them.
“This is an incredible opportunity to see the the culture around rugby in Japan as well as see the country. I never thought in a million years that I would get through – I don’t even really enjoy flying.”
Andy, who is one of only three volunteers selected to go the Japan, earned his trip after Erdington RFC launched a pilot scheme in January to run coaching sessions for under 15s from four inner city Birmingham schools, focusing on youngsters who could benefit from the core disciplines of rugby.
The pilot has proved so successful that it was endorsed by West Midlands mayor, Andy Street and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, whose department provided funding for the club to run a six-week summer camp.
Children from 14 schools across Birmingham were invited to attend the camp, which ran for three evenings per week during peak times for crime. Youngsters received three hour sessions of rugby training and other mixed sports followed by a hot meal, which they sat down and ate together to foster relationships and improve their social skills.
Speaking on behalf of the RFU, former England player Brian Moore, who is involved with the recognition initiative, said: “If we didn’t have volunteers, we would not have a game.”