Jason Leonard stirs support within Premiership clubs
23 March 2005 16:40pm
NEC Harlequins and England legend Jason Leonard threw down the gauntlet today to Zurich Premiership club mascots when he launched the Wooden Spoon Mascots' Challenge. The scheme, which is a joint initiative between Wooden Spoon and the Zurich Premiership rugby clubs, will raise money to set-up rugby coaching programmes for socially disadvantaged children in inner city areas.
Jason explained why: "Rugby's image of being 'posh' is just no longer relevant - it is a great game played by a huge range of people and I am passionate about it being popular with all children, regardless of their background."
Wayne Morris of Premier Rugby agreed: "Schools rugby is on the increase, especially at primary school level following the introduction of tag non-contact rugby. The demand from schools wanting to take part in Premiership clubs' community activity far outstrips what can be provided."
"Since England's World Cup win, rugby has become the country's second most popular sport and these programmes will enable us to help meet that demand in some of the country's most deprived areas. The mascots are a perfect way to promote this fund raising initiative as they have become an integral part of any Premiership club match, and they have established themselves as a firm favourite with children and adults alike."
Mascots at Zurich Premiership clubs around the country have been given honorary memberships of Wooden Spoon and for every penny that they raise on behalf of Spoon, Spoon will match-fund up to a limit of £5,000.
The mascots will be formally presented with their membership on the pitch at one of their home games and as part of the initiative each participating club mascot has undertaken to take part in one fund raising activity in the year. The money raised by the club mascot and matched by Wooden Spoon will then be used within the club's own community programme to fund projects specifically to help socially disadvantaged children.
Geoff Morris, Chief Executive of Wooden Spoon explained why this project was so important: "For over 20 years, Spoon has excelled in helping mentally and physically disadvantaged children but we aim to help those who are socially deprived too."
"The Premiership clubs are very well placed to identify and act to meet these areas of need and we are very proud to be supporting them - and who knows, maybe one of the children taking part in the scheme will be the next Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson or Jason Leonard!"
In addition, the annual mascots' match which takes place prior to the Zurich Premiership Final will now become the Spoon Mascot Challenge to win the Wooden Spoon trophy.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.