The Welsh Rugby Union has announced the names of the 47 clubs who will benefit from the £250 000 grant received from the Foundation for Sports and Arts (FSA) for the improvement of facilities at grassroots clubs.
Following the successful grant application by the WRU to the FSA, £50 000 was made available to community clubs in each geographical area (Blues, Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets and North Wales) and clubs could apply for grants of £1000, £5000 or £20 000 to carry out much needed club improvements.
In order to access the various grants clubs had to raise the same amount again through their own fundraising schemes which takes the level of investment into club facilities to over half a million pounds, while the WRU also earmarked a further £500 000 for its Club Loan Scheme, which enables clubs to apply for additional funding for facilities projects.
Picture Right Llatwit Fadre head coach Steve Goddard, player Mark Dollman, club treasurer Craig Mannings and club secretary Jeff Lewis with former clubman, Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins, in Llantwit Fadre's vandalised changing facilities.
Eight clubs from the Blues, Dragons, and North Wales regions were successful in applications for grants, along with six Scarlets teams and 17 Ospreys clubs who will each take a share of their respective regional £50 000.
Seven grants of up to £20 000 were awarded to clubs across Wales - Llantwit Fadre, Newport High School Old Boys, RTB Ebbw Vale, Dunvant, Amman United, Caernarfon and Nant Conwy, most of which will go towards major community-based projects such as work to upgrade changing rooms, floodlights and drainage work to provide extra training and playing facilities.
The news will give Llantwit Fadre RFC a welcome boost after a pre-season burglary left the club with no shower facilities.
The club's treasurer Craig Mannings said, "We decided to apply for a £20 000 grant after all the copper in our dressing rooms was stolen two weeks before the season kicked off.
"Our changing facilities were in desperate need of an update and the burglary made us stop and think about how we should proceed.
"Now that we have received notification that we have been successful in our grant bid, we have a number of options on the table as to whether we simply renovate the changing rooms - or try to raise a lot more capital in order to build a whole new facility for the club. We have set up a working party to look at the viability of the options and we hope to make a decision by early January."
Former Llantwit Fadre player and current Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins dropped by at the club this weekend to congratulate the club on its successful bid.
He said, "It's sad that community facilities could be vandalised as Llantwit Fadre were in the summer but the facilities are certainly in need of cast improvement and it's good news that grants like this are available to give clubs a boost. I came through the ranks here and it's vital to give kids decent facilities so that clubs like this can remain a focus for the community and continue to produce top players of the future, something they are so proud of doing. At the end of the day, small clubs like these are what Welsh rugby's all about, they give players such a great grounding for the game, whether they stay with that club throughout their playing career or go on to play for their Region or Wales."
Part of the criteria for the awarding of monies gave priority to clubs that have worked hard to achieve greater participation levels, especially where junior and women's teams are concerned and Caernarfon Rugby Club's £19 000 grant will specifically be used to help build a changing 'wing' for their Women's and Girls' section. The club's Women's and Girls' section is particularly active, with 14 players selected to represent Wales at age grade and senior level in recent years.
Speaking on behalf of Caernarfon Club, Ieuan Jones said, "The nature of our grant application was specifically designed to cater for our women's and girls' section. We have a very successful junior section but we had noticed that our girls numbers had fallen recently and realised that the reason for this was the inadequate female changing facilities that are often synonymous with traditional rugby clubs. The female section is very important to us as a club but the girls weren't really part of the club at all, they were simply coming to the club to train and play and leaving immediately afterwards because we didn't have the proper facilities for them to feel a true part of the club.
"Luckily, one of our members has architectural expertise and came up with a plan for an extension which will house the female changing rooms and we consulted with the women and girls to make sure we were catering for their needs, by providing individual changing cubicles etc.
"The work should start in April and will hopefully be complete in time for the start of next season.
"We are grateful to three or four sponsors who have helped us raise over £10 000 towards the £20 000 match funding already and we will look to add to that with fundraising events and hopefully additional donors or sponsors."
The other North Wales recipient of the maximum grant is Nant Conwy RFC whose £20 000 award will go towards an ambitious £200 000 project to build a new clubhouse to house their rapidly expanding community club.
Nick Jones, junior club chairman said, "Our current facilities are relatively new but limited to basic changing rooms and a kitchen. Over the last 15 years we have built up a junior section which comprises nearly 200 members so it's practically impossible to feed up to ten teams on match days - there's nowhere for the children to eat.
"We have already raised £20 000 to match fund our grant through various means - bag packing, raffles, organizing sheep dog trials with the help of local farmers. We are also looking into a 24 hour sponsored rugby match with the juniors and are considering organising a rock festival.
"We started digging this week to gauge what kind of foundations we will need and we are hoping the whole project will be complete in two years' time."
On the lower end of the scale, St Peter's RFC have received a grant of £5 000 to improve the drainage at the Cardiff club, which will enable them to utilise one of their floodlit pitches which is currently unusable.
Terry Thompson secretary of the club said, "We run junior teams from Under 8s to Under 16s and with three senior teams and a youth team, the use of our third pitch will certainly enhance the club's activities, especially given the fact that it already benefits from floodlights so it will help on training nights. Without it, we can't host a full junior tournament on one day and have to split up our teams between playing at home and away."
The total cost of the project comes in at around £13 000 but the club has more than matched its £5 000 grant through fundraising.
WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis, who was a member of the decision panel said, "Grass roots rugby clubs are the heart and soul of the game in Wales. Rugby clubs across our nation are often at the centre of our communities providing sporting, social and healthy living benefits. They are the glue which holds so many of our towns and villages together. That's why we are delighted with the level of support we have received from the Foundation of Sports and Arts and that's why the WRU is prepared to invest so much into the community game. Rugby can define us as a nation and it can unite us as a nation. A winning Wales at the highest level needs the game to thrive at the grass roots.
"Thousands of volunteer coaches, team managers, match officials and administrators around Wales do an amazing job in nurturing our young talent - but it is important that the facilities available to our players and coaches match that level of commitment.
"From the review conducted into community rugby this year and further to this grant application process, it has clearly been recognised that facilities at grassroots rugby clubs in Wales are in significant need of investment and we will continue to engage with other organisations and partners in order to ensure more, new investment into this vital area of the game."
Richard Boardley of the Foundation for Sports and Arts said, "The Trustees were extremely impressed by the WRU's bid for funding and we were delighted to have been able to allocate £250,000 to the project. We are especially pleased to see the diverse range of Community projects that have been selected to receive grants from the project. The Trustees would like to wish the WRU and the Clubs every success in ensuring that maximum benefit and enjoyment is derived from each completed project"
Source:-The Welsh Rugby Union
WRU distribution of £250 000 grant from Foundation for Sports and the Arts:
Newport High School Old Boys
Project: Improvements to pitch drainage, barrier fencing for pitches, refurbishment of changing rooms.
RTB Ebbw Vale
Project: Renovation of currently heavily vandalised changing rooms.
Project: Upgrade of changing rooms and floodlighting.
Project: Additional training pitch and women's specific changing facilities.
Fleur de Lys
Project: Upgrade of all-weather facilities.
Project: New kit store and referee changing room.
Project: Upgrade of floodlighting
Project: To purchase storage container closer to the training pitches and equipment for junior rugby
Project: An upgrade of changing facilities after vandalism to include women's and disabled facilities.
Project: Provision of training floodlights.
Project: Provision of mobile training floodlights.
Project: Upgrade of changing rooms for junior rugby.
Project: Improvements to floodlights and lights in changing rooms and storage areas. Purchase of post protectors, kit and rugby equipment. Purchase of secure storage unit.
Project: Provision of underground drainage to reduce flooding issues.
Project: Development of additional changing rooms.
Project: Provision of catering and storage facilities for junior rugby.
Project: Extension of changing room and showers for junior, women's and disabled usage. New floodlights on training pitch.
Project: Development of additional training area including upgrade of floodlights.
Project: Installation of training floodlights on second pitch and purchase of new scrummaging machine.
Project: Upgrade of floodlighting
Project: Improve quality of existing floodlights.
Project: Improve quality of changing rooms.
Project: New floodlights and improved quality of training pitch
Project: Kit and equipment for new girls' under 15s
Project: Upgrade of training floodlighting and playing field.
Project: Upgrade of existing shower facilities.
Project: Changing room upgrade.
Project: New storage container for junior and youth rugby
Project: Upgrade of floodlights.
Project: Purchase of scrummaging machine.
Project: Purchase of equipment for junior teams.
Project: Upgrade of playing surface for juniors.
South Wales Police
Project: Repairs to stand following weather damage, improvements to clubhouse, stand and communal area.
Project: Upgrade of changing rooms to cater for both sexes and purchase of additional rugby equipment.
Project: Extension of floodlit area to provide additional space for training purposes.
Project: Construction of new storage facility for match and training equipment.
Project: Provision of 70m x 30m junior rugby pitch.
Fishguard & Goodwick
Project: Provision of two new rugby changing rooms and referee changing room with shower facilities within new multi sports complex.
Project: Improvements to changing rooms.
Project: Modification of existing bridge to allow for provision of necessary equipment at training sessions.
Project: Additional changing rooms to accommodate junior section.
Project: Extension of clubhouse to include kitchen, function room, events bar, meeting room, shop and storage space.
Project: Development of additional changing facilities for women's rugby.
Project: Shower refurbishment to provide separate men's and women's showers; provision of training floodlights; provision of two shelters for substitutes and coaches (dug outs); provision of area for scrummaging.
Project: Expansion of training area under floodlights.
Project: Improve quality of floodlighting
Project: Improvements to medical facilities