Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby….anniversary

October 5, 2016
By Tim Lawler, chief executive of SportsAid in London 
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby….anniversary
As it’s SportsAid’s 40th anniversary year, and we’re celebrating with a dinner in Yorkshire, I couldn’t resist a nod to the county’s own Kaiser Chiefs’ anthem to kick-off this blog.  Just consider the changes in day-to-day life since 1976, when SportsAid was founded, let alone in sport.  And yet, the need to support a new, next generation will never change - this is SportsAid's mission. 
With insight and input from the national governing bodies of sport, SportsAid seeks to recognise young, emerging sporting talent and give them a helping hand.  It is a simple premise but an effective one and a process that has proved effective over the years.  Are we backing the right horses, so to speak?  The numbers from the Rio Olympiad seem to suggest so:  SportsAid had supported 65% of Team GB and 68% of Paralympics GB; 20 of the 27 gold medals won by Team GB involved SportsAid-supported athletes and 70% of all the medals won by Paralympics GB; and as a nice illustration of the charity’s longevity, SportsAid had supported the youngest member of Team GB, Amy Tinkler (16) and a few years earlier, the oldest member of the team, John Whitaker (61).  
Looking even more closely, SportsAid has supported many of Sheffield’s sporting stars including Jessica Ennis-Hill, Matt Fitzpatrick and Nick Matthew. SportsAid has a UK-wide brief but a regional and local focus – money raised at key regional events such as the dinner in Sheffield will help young athletes from the city and that region.
Aside from the biggest sports meet of them all in Rio, there’s been quite a bit happening this year.  To mark the 40th anniversary there have been events at BAFTA, Tower Bridge, Lord’s and Kensington Palace, the latter with the charity’s Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge – quite an occasion.  In addition, we’ve seen the first ever SportsAid Week: a few days of fun and fundraising to raise awareness of SportsAid’s work and to seek support for it.  The inaugural week proved far more significant and successful than we’d first thought with activities such as a sponsored ‘run-ride-row to Rio’ challenge, a Serpentine Swim, Tough Mudder action, sports demos in various corporate HQs, lunches and dinners with medallists, fundraising from young athletes and their schoolmates, a graduate social media challenge, a Box Hill cycle sportive and a London to Paris ride….to name just a few.  Watch out for the dates of SportsAid Week 2.0 to be announced soon.
The year will draw to a close with the 40th Anniversary SportsBall in London in November followed by SportsAid’s Champions Tennis Day in December at the Royal Albert Hall – a grand way to end a special year.
So, thank you for supporting SportsAid’s work, because it makes a difference.  There are thousands of good causes in the UK but perhaps in Olympic and Paralympic year, none more topical than being able to help the next generation of the nation’s sporting talent.  If SportsAid did not take on this task, who would?  The National Lottery has transformed sporting investment yet it remains quite risk averse – once you have progressed beyond age-group into senior high performance sport, you will have all the support you need; the challenge is getting to that point, and that’s where SportsAid is focussed.  A helping hand at a crucial time.
SportsAid works in the hero factory; it sees what is coming off the production line and stands ready to help them on their journey.  You can play your part.
I don’t think I predict a riot, but the dinner in Sheffield is going to be great fun. 

Photo caption: World Squash champion Nick Matthew is just one of the Yorkshire athletes SportsAid has supported.