Falcons Head of Community and Marketing Melanie Magee received an award at the the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards last week for her decade of service to the game, and the hard work the Falcons Community Foundation do across the North East and Cumbria.
AS the lone Premiership Rugby club based in the North East, Newcastle Falcons travel far and wide to spread the rugby gospel – and Head of Community and Marketing Melanie Magee insists the message is being received loud and clear.
Magee was present at the tenth All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community awards in Westminster last Wednesday as coaches, role models and volunteers all came together to recognise the unsung heroes of the game.
And since the awards night’s inception a decade ago, the Falcons have seen their own community arm go from strength to strength according to Magee.
More than 500 volunteers and 150 community staff across all 12 Premiership Rugby clubs are helping to not only encourage participation in rugby, but change the lives of disadvantaged youngsters and adults through the sport’s core values.
Magee herself has been an integral part of the Falcons’ own efforts over the past ten years, with no area of the North East left untouched by their influence. She was presented with an award by Premiership Rugby to mark her decade of service to the game with the club.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” she said. “Everyone would get out, pick up a ball and play rugby but all the other wrap-around elements we do including social inclusion, health and education – we’re seeing that difference in the people involved.
“That word ‘inspire’ is a motivator, probably less than one per cent are going to be a rugby player in the end, but if we can get them to play rugby and through that be more aware of their education and health, then that’s the job done.
“It’s those role models in the sport that we’re lucky enough to have access to, and the fact that it’s a game for everybody – no matter what size you are, they’ve got particular role models to aspire to within the game.
“It’s inclusive, everyone’s got a chance and everyone’s so friendly and behind that community spirit. Being in Newcastle, football is obviously a big competitor, but I think those things are rugby’s advantage over everything else.
“The organisation is a big part for us, doing a marketing job for rugby and selling its benefits to community.
“We used to pitch up and do our own thing, but we work with the Department for Education on a national basis and local authorities, schools and clubs on a local basis. Social services, police services too, there’s a wide range of people we connect with.
“For us it's Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria – the next club down is Sale so we cover a massive geographical area. Over the last two years we’ve employed officers in the other counties so we can get that programme to as many people as we can.”
More than 90 national and local programmes are currently active across Premiership Rugby clubs and with an inspirational home World Cup looming, Magee insists the Falcons will only add to their network from here on in.
She added: “For last season alone we came in contact with 15,000 people via our community programmes. The numbers are one thing we look at, but though programmes like HITZ are for a small number of people the individual impact on their lives is huge.
“From the two staff when I started we’re now up to ten and we're now looking to employ even more for the future.
“For us that’s a reasonable increase and it’s those staff members that make the huge difference. We’ve got an ideal opportunity with the World Cup now, and we have access to a lot of legacy fundraising surrounding the competition to make sure we keep doing what we’re doing.”
For more information on the Falcons Community Foundation and the work that they do click here.