I’ve been to Twickenham Stadium countless times before, but never quite like this. I’d been invited to attend the England versus Scotland rugby match on Saturday because the Rugby Football Union, the governing body for rugby in England, was launching a new charitable venture.
Put simply, the scheme, called Try for Change, aims to help the growth of six rugby charities: All Schools, the Dallaglio Foundation, the Injured Players Foundation, Restart, School of Hard Knocks and Wooden Spoon.
It is being supported by the telecoms company O2 (itself a sponsor of the England team), which has pledged to raise £350,000 for the initiative through a recycling scheme for phones and other gadgets called Recycle for Rugby.
So I found myself in the members’ bar before kick-off being introduced to Bill Beaumont, former England captain and current chair of the RFU. Certainly not something I expected would form part of my Third Sector career.
Probably unsurprisingly, the charitable aspects of the proceedings took rather a back seat to the main event (with the exception of Scotland’s defensive line, which was altogether very generous towards the English, but we digress).
If you looked closely you would have spotted the small group of beneficiaries of the six appointed charities waving flags on the pitch just before kick off. You might also have noticed the promotional video for the scheme, played on the stadium’s two enormous screens at half time, although this was sadly when most of those present are in the queue for the toilet.
But this won’t matter much for the six charities, who will no doubt each receive a handy shot in the arm from the scheme.
Rugby doesn’t share anywhere near the same profile as football, and these charities, though well known in rugby circles, are mostly small and will benefit from a bit more financial muscle to help them expand.
With the Rugby World Cup taking place in England in the autumn and the raised profile the game will no doubt receive, it will be interesting to come back to the charities in a year’s time to see how much difference the scheme and the wider interest in the game has made.