London Irish’s Les Smith is one of eight inspiring individuals who has been crowned a Regional winner for Volunteer of the Year ahead of the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards.

Les Smith is a retired school teacher who works in a voluntary role organising sports festivals at Crosfields Prep School, Reading.

Les is described as a ‘truly humble man’ and London Irish have had the privilege of working closely with Les over several years on the Rugby Festival held in March each year.

Les has organised these incredible festivals single handed for over 10 years, in his own time with no remuneration.

From disability sport helpers to youth rugby coaches to festival organisers, the Volunteer of the Year award is set to recognise those that have given the most back to their communities.

Every year hundreds of people up and down the country give their time to help run Premiership Rugby initiatives such as – but not limited to – Aviva Tackling Numbers, HITZ, On The Front Foot, Rugby 4 All, Something To Chew On, Move Like A Pro, and Urban Rugby Squad.

These ground-breaking schemes all seek to help the community reach new heights both on and off the rugby pitch, but that would be impossible without those that volunteer their time.

The judging panel for the Volunteer of the Year Award chaired by Kenny Brown, PLAY – Development Manager, Premiership Rugby included Ben McGregor, RPA, David Mullen, Ernst & Young, Jug Johal, Asian Sports Foundation and Monika Orolinova, Ricoh.

Regional winners shortlisted for the National Volunteer of the Year Award are:

  • Duncan Bell - Bath Rugby Foundation
  • Nino Genua – Bristol Rugby
  • Nicole Talbot – Gloucester Rugby
  • Nigel Champion – Harlequins
  • Les Smith – London Irish
  • Hamim Ally- Newcastle Falcons
  • Kate Bennetta – Sale Sharks
  • Lucy Pujos – Saracens

When the judges met to try and choose a worthy winner, panellist Jug Johal, Asian Sports Foundation chairman admitted it was a tough task to choose given the stellar work done by all the nominees.

“It was really inspiring to be able to come and judge these awards, although trying to choose between all of the nominees was extremely difficult,” said Johal the Asian Sports Foundation chairman.

“Every single person put forward has made a massive contribution to their community, no matter what kind of work they are doing or how many people they have directly affected.

“What was fantastic to see was the diversity of the entries and how many different kinds of people were being helped both on and off the pitch by the Premiership Rugby clubs.

All of the Regional winners and their guests are invited to attend the glittering awards ceremony at the House of Commons on Thursday 7 July. 

The overall winner of the Volunteer of the Year award will be announced on Thursday 7 July at the illustrious Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards at the Terrace Pavilion, House of Commons, and on Twitter via the @premrugby account. Use the hashtag #RugbyChangingLives to join the conversation. 

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