Stephen Parsons’ involvement in grassroots rugby stretches back more than 30 years and he has reflected with pride on his involvement in growing opportunities for disabled players.

With previous experience working for a disability charity, Parsons now facilitates the Project Rugby programme, which has introduced the sport to over 100,000 participants since its inception in 2017, in his role as Community Development Officer within Newcastle Rugby Foundation. 

By running sessions in community clubs and SEN schools, Parsons helps fill a gap in the provision of disability sports within the region, providing all-year-round opportunities for disabled participants to play rugby, while indoor winter training provision at Tyneside Badminton Centre has resulted in newly formed partnerships with other local providers and the creation of a North East Disability Sport Forum.

“Seeing the smiles on the faces and the sense of achievement when learning new skills or achieving a task makes delivering Project Rugby both rewarding and enjoyable,” said Parsons, who is among the inspirational individuals being celebrated during Community Weekend in Round 14 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (March 29-31). 

“I am proud there are now opportunities for participants with disabilities to play fixtures and festivals against other teams that before never existed.”

Over Community weekend, all games will be dedicated to the award-winning community programmes run by Premiership Rugby in collaboration with its shareholder Clubs and Club Foundations.

Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director, Premiership Rugby, said: “Driving inclusivity within the game is a top priority for our community programmes and it is only possible with the support of outstanding individuals like Stephen. 

“Project Rugby has helped create 22 new mixed-ability teams nationwide to increase diversity in the sport and we are committed to supporting coaches like Stephen at Falcons to continue to inspire a new generation of rugby players.”

Frank Firth, Managing Director of title partner Gallagher’s Newcastle branch, added: “We are passionate about Project Rugby and how it enables all abilities to play.

“Stephen is a great example of how the programme is not only rewarding for participants but the coaching teams too. 

“With people like Stephen, who have expert knowledge and authentic passion for the game, we have an opportunity to increase the number of people with disabilities playing rugby.”

Project Rugby is delivered in partnership with Gallagher, title sponsor of Premiership Rugby, and the RFU and is designed to introduce as many people as possible to the benefits of rugby.

With a specific focus on engaging participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, no matter their background or disability, Project Rugby sessions introduce rugby to novices at easily accessible, familiar locations within local communities, run by coaches and volunteers from Premiership Rugby Clubs and Club Foundations spread across the nation.

To find your nearest Project Rugby session visit: