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Hampshire’s Marsden carries a Torch for rugby volunteers

14 December 2011

  • Havant and county stalwart attends Pall Mall ceremony
  • Sir Bobby’s words ring true for sports volunteers
HRH Princess Alexandra presents a 2011 Torch Trophy Trust award to Dave Marsden

Photo: Getty Images

Hampshire rugby union volunteer Dave Marsden had a night to remember in London when he was presented with a prestigious Torch Trophy Trust award by HRH Princess Alexandra.

Marsden, 64, from Hayling Island, is a popular pillar of grassroots rugby union in Hampshire, and as the chairman of the county’s Community Rugby Group he is described by friends and colleagues as “an out and out rugby man, who enjoys more than anything helping people to enjoy the game as much as they can, and clubs to be as good as they can be”.

His many years of volunteering were recognised by the Torch Trophy Trust which was established in 1962 to recognise outstanding volunteers in the grassroots of sport in clubs and community initiatives.

Marsden was one of 19 volunteers presented with an award – a miniature replica of the Olympic Torch – during an evening of ceremonies in London’s Pall Mall when he also met famous Trustees in football legend Sir Bobby Charlton and former England rugby captain Roger Uttley.

Sir Bobby, the President of the Trust, stressed in his speech that sport in Britain relies on volunteers and the recipients of the awards should be proud of their achievements because without their efforts their particular sports would have been the poorer.

Dave, who has coached at Havant RFC since 1990 and became involved at county level in 2002, was proposed for the award by the RFU’s former Hampshire rugby development officer Jamie Sanders.

Dave said: “My wife Liz and I experienced a fantastic evening at the awards-giving, where we were very honoured to be in the presence of royalty, legendary sportsmen and other volunteers across the sporting horizon.

“Princess Alexandra personalised each presentation making it even more special. Afterwards she came across and we just had a chat about the awards. A very gracious lady and it was just lovely to meet her.

“We got to speak with Sir Bobby Charlton which was just magical for Liz, as Bobby has been a hero of hers since she was a kid in Manchester.

“I had to remind Roger Uttley that we shared the same turf about 30 years ago when we played against each other in a charity game at the Civil Service ground in London – again a very nice man who is now enjoying his retirement in Northumberland.

“We met a number of the other recipients of the awards and it as very interesting to hear about what they are doing in the own sports to promote their game and the problems that they are having to overcome,  all off which mostly reflect the sort of challenges that face us.”

Working closely with the RFU’s regional delivery team and community rugby coaches, Dave’s influence in improving the quality of experience for everyone involved in Hampshire rugby has been huge.

Through the Hampshire Facility Group, Dave innovated and implemented the Club Development fund (formed in 2005), awarding £20,000 to 18 local clubs, and the Decorations Fund (2009) that has awarded £3000 to 15 clubs.

Overall in conjunction with the RFU’s funding and facilities manager, Dave has seen projects worth more than £5 million delivered in the community game. It is reckoned he has visited every club in the county at least once in his tireless efforts to promote improvements to their facilities.

In the field of player development, Dave formed the Hampshire COLTs league, which now boasts 18 teams across three tiers, and helped develop the Prop Idol programme to reward and develop front row players and coaches, with 1000 young players and more than 50 coaches benefiting directly from the scheme.

Not content with that, in the past two years Dave, who retired from working as a Projects Manager at IBM in the late 1990s, has demonstrated a fantastic and insightful passion for improving the lot of perhaps the most crucial person in the sport of rugby: the volunteer.

He has worked with two county and 25 club volunteer co-ordinators and, in the younger age group covered by vRugby, recruited two young county activators and 10 club activators in the vRugby programme. Projects have included the New Forest Young Leaders Community delivery programme, the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival and the Southsea Carnival.

In appreciating the value of recognising the efforts of volunteers, Dave has organised for three county volunteers and six club volunteers to receive awards for their contributions to the game, ranging from a huge bouquet of flowers to an Isle of Wight lady whose daily duty was to keep her club clean to a groundsman who was treated to a lesson in turf-keeping from the RFU head groundsman Keith Kent at Twickenham Stadium.