FIVE South Wales clubs have engaged in a pilot scheme with Wales Probation Services which will have mutual benefits for both the clubs and the Probation’s Community Payback team.

As clubs continue to welcome players back to their grounds, WRU Pitch Ready will see individuals from Wales Probation Services’ Community Payback work alongside the local clubs to help get the grounds ‘match-ready’, carrying out tasks such as essential maintenance, pitch-marking and repair work.

The Principality Stadium’s pitch team have already provided expertise on all matters relating to pitch maintenance to the clubs and the Community Payback team supervisors in order to ‘hit the ground running’ when the scheme starts next week.

WRU Community Director Geraint John said, “This is an exciting project with a number of mutual benefits.

“Following 13 months of lockdowns, many of our clubs are in great need of additional pairs of hands to get their pitches and clubhouses in working order and with the prospect of matches around the corner, there will be weekly tasks to carry out.

“Thanks to our pitch experts at Principality Stadium, the Community Payback team will gain practical skills and knowledge across a number of areas and carry out meaningful roles for the benefit of their local community.

“Another key benefit of the scheme will be the future employability prospects of participants and additional accredited training opportunities that we can deliver in conjunction with the Wales Probation Services.”

Dawn Blower, Chief Officer from Wales Probation Services, said: “We are proud to be working in partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union as a part of this Community Payback initiative focused on grounds maintenance. This initiative will benefit the individuals under supervision, the rugby clubs involved and the wider community. One of the aims of this partnership is to maintain rugby pitches in the community, so that young people have greater access to sport.

“Community Payback is a tough, effective and visible punishment requiring people to undertake challenging work while giving something back to the communities where they live. It is also an opportunity for people to turn their Community Payback experience into a positive one by picking up new skills that can help them progress towards paid employment which will help them better navigate their own rehabilitation journey.”

Sixty clubs from across Wales signed up for the scheme initially but lockdown has curtailed the roll out nationally in the short-term. They will be contacted again following evaluation of the pilot.

The scheme originated from the feedback received during the recent WRU District Workshops to support the new Community Strategy particularly addressing the quality of grass pitches and reducing some of the demands on volunteers.

The financial support for the scheme was made available from Sport Wales’ Place for Sport Fund to purchase items of specialist grounds maintenance equipment to deliver the service at the clubs.