June 27, 2007
Bolton's most famous rugby union son, former England player and RFU President Malcolm Phillips was the perfect choice to do the honours when the club was presented with its RFU President's XV award today (Wednesday, June 27, 2007).
The award, one of 13 handed out nationwide in recognition of special work by clubs in specific areas, went to Bolton for their work in developing rugby in schools within the town and was received on behalf of the club by the man who has done so much to drive the various initiatives, Club Chairman Clive Nightingale.
The presentation was especially appropriate in that the Chairman will shortly be leaving the club and the community to start a new chapter of his life in Austria and this RFU recognition was perfectly time for a man who has piloted the club so successfully during his tenure in office.
A rugby injury resulted in him being propelled into the chairmanship rather than a place in the first team, but that accident of fate has clearly been a major blessing in disguise for the club.
"Bolton are very worthy winners of the award," says Greater Manchester Rugby Development Officer Tom Mapp. "The work they've done over the five years since I've been in post in bringing you people into rugby union and the club environment has been absolutely fantastic.
"They have 15 schools playing every week in an Emerging Schools League and they run regular tag rugby competitions. The result of that is that from a base of around 50 young people being involved in the junior section they now have more than 300. They now have two development officers in place funded by the club and local sponsors and Clive Nightingale has been instrumental in steering the club through what has been a very exciting time, especially now that some of the youngsters are starting to play at senior level."
There was obviously a deep sense of personal satisfaction for Chairman Nightingale.
"It's a fantastic achievement for the club," says than man who has been directing operations for a dozen years. "I've put a lot of hard work into putting in place the development team - there aren't many clubs at our level who have both a Development Officer in Scott Watson and a Community Rugby Coach in Gary Kos.
"We got the funding together from a range of sources and put it into this development pot. Now we have the two of them out in the community and in the schools doing the work that has got us to where we are today and which has earned us this award.
"We applied for support via loads of different schemes - Primary School tag tournaments, Emerging Schools League, social inclusion work with the Somalian youngsters in the area, work with disabled groups and summer camps - and we've geared all our efforts to the projects we pledged to do when we got Sportsmatch backing.
"We've had a great response from the schools to our input. We've a vested interest. We wear two hats. One, we like to go out and promote rugby and get the sport out to the kids and let them enjoy and make informed decisions about whether they want to play rugby or follow football. If they've never tried rugby they'll never know, so we're giving them that option.
"Secondly, we've been working on the exit strategy from this situation and that should be that these kids are coming to us and other rugby clubs.
"We want youngsters to see that the facilities we've developed are very good and that club offers a warm and friendly environment. Hopefully that helps when they come back on a Sunday with their parents.
"When we heard that we'd got the award it brought tears to my eyes because it meant that all the hard work that has been put in had been seen by the wider community. When you get a top accolade for the work you're doing in schools, it makes all that time and effort definitely worthwhile."
Malcolm Phillips may have represented the RFU �top brass' at the presentation, but he also provided in-depth awareness of what has been achieved by rugby men in his town.
"They started from scratch 20 years ago on what had been a derelict mill site," he says. "Now they've got three pitches, two training areas, a fine clubhouse - and all this in an area which is soccer mad. I think it's remarkable. Clubs like this are the heart of the Rugby Union game and to be one of only 12 clubs in the country to win one of these awards is a terrific achievement."
Footnote: A team of Under 11s from Hardy Mill School won the weekly tag festival that provided the backdrop to the presentation ceremony.