Today sees the last of the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool matches, and the tournament is in full swing. Thousands have travelled to the UK to be a part of the 48 match contest, and it’s not hard to see why – the atmosphere is great, the quality of sport high and the stakes even higher.
In a small town in West Yorkshire, the stakes were equally high throughout August as the first ever Mixed Ability World Rugby Tournament took place.
Although the hosts Bumbles RUFC didn’t win, the tournament was an overwhelming success with over 400 participants, and teams competing from 10 different countries.
A few years ago, events like this were rare. Not only because of a lack of awareness amongst the majority of people about disability sports, but also in some cases due to lack of funding, or limited knowledge of disability sports that took place in local areas. With the 2012 London Paralympics having raised the profile, popularity and support for disabled sports (2012 was the first Paralympics to have sold out), disabled sports have enjoyed a renewed sense of enthusiasm within the UK.
At times, the inclusion of disabled sports has been hard fought – take the model for #MAWRT, unlike the Paralympics the tournament the “Mixed Ability Sport is not about classifying levels of ability and separating disabled players into different tiers” but instead sets out to encourage “social inclusion by mixing “able-bodied” volunteers, coaches or tutors who act as facilitators or helpers to guide players on the pitch”.
Hopefully events such as this have set a precedent for disabled sports more widely, and support for them will only grow. For those that are interested, you can watch a documentary charting the origins of the Bumbles, England’s first mixed ability Rugby Union team, here – Flight of the Bumblebees. Or you can check out Sport England’s website for further details concerning disability sport.