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BT and the RAF join up for the UK Armed Forces Inter-Services Rugby Union Competition

Press Release   •   Sep 21, 2017 15:41 BST

Annual fixtures coincide with RAF’s centenary year

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has selected BT, the UK’s largest employer of former military personnel and Reservists, as their official partner for the annual Inter-Services Rugby Union Competition, it was announced today.

The news comes as the RAF prepares to mark its centenary year on 1 April 2018, and coincides with the start of the Royal Air Force Rugby Union’s 2017/18 season.

The annual Inter-Services Competition sees teams from across the UK Armed Forces compete against each other to lift the prestigious Inter-Services trophy. The fixtures are amongst the most popular sporting events within the UK Armed Forces calendar, with the biggest matches attracting crowds of 90k spectators representing the families, colleagues and veterans drawn together by sport and espirit de corps.

As well as promoting fitness and wellbeing within the RAF and the wider Armed Forces, the competition gives rugby union enthusiasts beyond the military family the opportunity to watch the sport played at a very high level, as well as promoting greater participation in the game from the grass roots upwards within the three Services.

Senior RAF figureheads, elite players from the male and female squads, together with senior executives from BT, celebrated the signing of the new partnership last night at an event held at the iconic BT Tower in London.

The event was hosted by England rugby union legend Ben Kay, with a keynote speech by Frank Dick OBE, former Director of Coaching for UK Athletics, who explained how essential skills on the pitch, such as leadership, motivation and team-work, can be transferred to the workplace. High-profile guests from the world of rugby union also included Amy Cokayne, current hooker for the England Ladies team and RAF Reservist and Cpl Josh McNally, signed for London Irish this season.

England rugby international and World Cup winner, Ben Kay, said: “The Inter-Services games are really special events within the military and civilian rugby union calendar. The matches not only promise quality, top flight rugby but also the opportunity to support the courageous men and women who have, and continue to, serve our country so well. With this season’s games marking 100 years of the RAF, it will be a championship to remember.”

Air Marshal Phil Osborn, the Royal Air Force Rugby Union President, said: “RAF rugby has grown from strength to strength through our first 100 years and continues to Rise above the Rest. This new relationship with BT will allow this development to continue to soar through the RAF’s centenary year of 2018 and beyond.”

Colm O’Neill, MD, Major Accounts & Public Sector, BT, said: “BT’s relationship with the armed forces is something we’re extremely proud of and stretches back many decades. From Tommy Flowers, the former Post Office employee who designed and built the code-busting machine Colossus during World War II, to underpinning the communications and IT security needs of the MoD today, BT continues to support the needs of the military by investing in technology, networks and our people.

“As the UK’s biggest employer of ex-military personnel and reservists, it is entirely fitting for BT and the RAF to come together to promote this fantastic tournament. And by working in partnership on a year-long leadership programme, we aim to share best-practice and instil the same leadership qualities inherent in the RAF amongst our own rising talent.”

As part of the new partnership, BT’s distinctive logo will feature on the players’ shirts and throughout the rugby grounds at the prestigious Inter-Services matches next year.

BT was one of the first companies to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant in 2013 - a public pledge from organisations who wish to demonstrate their support for the Armed Forces community. It was also one of the first employers to be recognised by the MoD’s Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Awards.

Over the last five years, BT has recruited more than 2,000 ex-military personnel primarily via the MoD’s Career Transition Partnership (CTP), with the majority joining its local network business, Openreach. The company also employs hundreds of Reservists, with Openreach employing two-thirds of all personnel employed in 81 Signal Squadron, the specialist Reserve communications unit.

BT is also the founding partner of Transition Force, a programme of activities dedicated to supporting former and serving Armed Forces personnel, including those wounded, injured and sick, in their transition to civilian employment.

Ends

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