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Benson carries the Torch for rugby volunteers

10 December 2008

December 10, 2008

Hampshire rugby stalwart Steve Benson has received the prestigious Torch Trophy Trust award in recognition of almost 20 years' voluntary service to the game.

Benson is the chairman of Ellingham & Ringwood RFC, having been a player, referee and coach at the club he has also served as Honorary Secretary, Junior Chairman and Junior Secretary. He received his award from the Earl of Wessex at the Army and Navy Club in London's Pall Mall from the Torch Trophy Trust which was established in 1962 to recognise outstanding volunteers in the grass roots of sport in clubs and community initiatives.

Steve, 51, was accompanied by his wife Marian, children Henry and Charlotte, and parents Ron and Elisabeth for the presentation of the award - a miniature replica of the Olympic Torch - and the family chatted with the Earl of Wessex and football legend Sir Bobby Charlton, the Torch Trophy Trust president. Also in attendance were Brian Williams, President of the RFU, and Nick Bunting, the RFU's Head of Planning, Funding & Resources and a director of the CCPR. "It was great to have the family with me as they have supported me in all my rugby work," said Steve, a managing director of a house-building firm. "Prince Edward spent ages talking to my son and daughter about their sporting activities, and my mum's sporting hero was Bobby Charlton so she could not believe it when he made a real fuss of her."

Steve played rugby in his teens for Bacavians in Hertfordshire but he joined Ellingham & Ringwood 25 years ago when he moved to Hampshire. He still turns out for the club's 2nd XV alongside his 19-year-old son, while Charlotte is a fly half for the U18s. "Henry is a nippy scrum half and I'm the fat prop but I'm not hanging up the boots just yet," said Steve.

His voluntary work began in earnest in the early 1990s when he set up the club's youth section which now boasts 227 registered members. Steve coached one of the first minis' Under 7s sides (in which Henry played) through to colts level. He then established girls' and ladies' sides at the club and coached girls' teams at county and regional levels.

Another striking and certainly visible transformation has been the club's relocation to the centre of Ringwood with facilities that meet 21st Century standards. Leaving behind the old base at Picket Post in the New Forest which offered one pitch and a limited wooden pavilion, a �750,000 project has been completed to construct a sports pavilion, two rugby pitches, an artificial cricket wicket, a 300m grass athletics track and four floodlighting columns for training.

The pavilion includes four changing rooms, an officials' changing room, first aid room, kitchen and club room. The first match at the new site is due in January 2009 with an official opening soon after. The huge fund-raising efforts included club members, the RFU, Sport England, the Rugby Football Foundation, Ringwood Brewery, Ringwood Town Council and New Forest District Council.

Dave Stubley, the RFU's Funding and Facilities Manager for the South West, nominated Benson for the Torch Trophy Trust award and said: "Steve has been the driver in this eight-year project from start to finish and has been instrumental in the club working in partnership with Ringwood Junior School, New Forest District Council and Hampshire RFU with a wider project group of Ellingham Cricket Club, Ringwood and Avon Athletics Club, Hampshire County Council and Ringwood Town Council to achieve the goal.

"Steve and the club have also secured lottery funding to enable a person to be employed to help deliver the wider sports development plans for the site, which include schools, the local sixth form college, cricket and athletics. Ellingham & Ringwood have received the Seal of Approval / Club Mark accreditation and are considered a model of a good community club."

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