Awards go to the Gibraltar RFU Team
Gibraltar is a small peninsula 3 miles long by less than 1 mile wide at the Southern tip of the Spanish Mainland. Fought over for centuries given it's strategic position at the entrance to the Med, it has been part of the UK (formally) since 1713.
The population is not surprisingly dominated by native Gibraltarians and of course British ex-pats which is where the majority of the rugby community comes from.
Gibraltar Rugby has seen significant transformation in the last 12 months; now employing a full time General Manager and since February a full time Rugby Development Officer (RDO) to augment the part time staff and a raft of volunteers.
The complex at Europa Point (once the MOD cricket ground) is a state of the art facility with a full size multi-use sports hall, squash courts, a darts centre as well as in in-door hall equipped with cricket nets and al of the tech you could dream of and of course the artificial pitch which combines rugby and cricket - although football in Gib is by far the biggest sport and they have their own complex at the Northern end of the Rock, Europa is often used by clubs and youth coaching sessions too.
Famed for being "Britain in the sun", Gibraltar is an obvious place for Uk teams to tour, but the largest development in recent years has been the growth of the annual Gibraltar 7s in June. This year TRF CEO, Phil Klevorick, joined the team delivering the event to see what it was all about and to assist in reviewing and coaching the Match Official team from 7s Referee.
"It's an unbelievable place for rugby" commented Phil, "the sense of awe when you look from the pitch up to the top of the rock, especially when you see it disappear into the clouds when the wind comes in from the East, then you turn around and look across the sea to the Atlas Mountains of North Africa. I've been to some very special places but this is right up there."
Gibraltar is on a strong growth curve right now, especially since the introduction of Tom Read as RDO and now also Academy Director. Tom has an incredible CV for such a young man and a very level head on his shoulders, prior to moving to Gibraltar he was heading a community engagement and outreach programme with Leicester Tigers.
Tom's focus is to help grow rugby on the Rock, delivering sessions to the schools, helping to up-skill the sports' teachers, working with GRFU volunteer coaches, streamlining training and even managing a small but growing number of referees and officials. It's no small task but in a Union such as Gibraltar where all teams play at the same home ground and the Union bosses are the Club bosses, it offers a fascinating challenge.
Tom is of course supported from afar by our EMEA Director, Mike Mulroy, who is often in Gibraltar running events including the 7s. "The guys in Gib have been amazing and they have many great ideas to benefit rugby on the Rock but they are wise enough to make that journey in manageable chunks to achieve success." said Mike. "The growth not only internally since Tom and Ricky (the General Manager) have come on to assist Chad (CEO) but also with teams from other Countries coming over for the 7s, tours and training camps is excellent."
"Thanks to Ricky, the 7s this year saw an exhibition game of wheelchair TAG rugby in the sports hall. Women's rugby has grown enormously and a large reason for that is Tom now coaching the team. The great thing is that they are focused on promoting and developing every aspect of the game and not focused on one area." "It's for this reason that TRF decided to award Gibraltar Rugby and it's team with the 'Spirit of Rugby' Award"
Following the presentation at the end of the 7s this year, Phil said "This award is not something given out lightly, in fact this is only the third award that we have made, one of the others being the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival for their work in bringing young people together from all over the world to play rugby; Gibraltar is right up there with them. Different teams, different countries, different forms of the game, all brought together."
Although Gib Rugby is on a roll, there's still one hurdle that remains un-cleared, their entry into Rugby Europe and World Rugby. Politics in this small part of the Med are always delicate but whilst the Gibraltar FA is a full member of FIFA as an example, the Spanish Rugby bosses & their supporters constantly veto Gibraltar's entrance into rugby's world governance.
Much has been written about this ongoing legal battle but TRF believes that all rugby players have the right to play, to represent their Nation and to enjoy our sport on the world stage