Canada's sole MLR representative name not-for-profit as lead partner for 2023
Ahead of the 2023 Major League Rugby season, the Toronto Arrows have announced that they have selected the Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation (TIRF) as their lead partner and the not-for-profit will be prominently featured across the team’s jerseys for the entire 2023 season.
Toronto’s largest rugby-focused community development organization, TIRF uses rugby as a tool for good through reducing the barriers which prevent children from sports participation.
Established in 2011 by Toronto businessmen and prominent rugby figures in the city’s community, Alan Broadbent, Bill Di Nardo and former Canada center, Scott Bryan, in the years since, the organization has touched the lives of tens of thousands of young people in the Greater Toronto Area.
Arrows President and General Partner, Bill Webb, has been involved with TIRF since virtually the beginning and serves as an advisor on their Captain’s Council. Collaborating since Toronto’s introduction to MLR in 2019, Webb is a staunch believer of the good that rugby can provide for young people.
“Like many people, the sport has played a very important part in my life and my development as a young person and I have seen what it can do for others,” Webb told TRN.
“I have seen that from coaching kids, I have coached from U6s all the way to U16s. I have seen the power of rugby.
“Rugby really is a mechanism for improvement, to give people the traditional values of rugby – teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship – and that is important.
“Giving kids in the Greater Toronto Area the priority, giving kids a place to go and a place to be. It gives kids a place to go after school, in the summertime and what I particularly like about rugby is, it is one of the most inclusive sports, whether that is socio economic status, race, religion or sexual orientation.
“We have a very diverse group of citizens here in Toronto, we have people with many different needs. Over the years, the program has grown from strength to strength, to the point they had their very best year before Covid.”
TIRF’s influence on its community can already be seen on the Arrows. Both of Marcello Wainwright and Josiah Morra are graduates of the program, the non-profit’s influence on its city’s professional rugby team already prominent.
Taking on children from the age of six all the way to 19, TIRF also exposes young people to colleges and universities, using rugby as the catalyst to sending young people to higher education.
The organization are also hoping to continue their growth in the years to come and continue to break down barriers through sport.
An established organization in the city, TIRF has a strong presence and could translate to the growth of the Arrows as a result of the partnership between the two.
“We made the realization that for the Arrows to grow, to grow rugby in Toronto, Ontario and Canada, we realized it has to be a ground up strategy,” Rahul Srinivasan, Arrows Chief Commercial Officer, said.
“I keep coming back to the term ‘community mobilization’, but we’ve realized that to grow our fanbase, to grow the game, we’ve got to look at pockets of Torontonians that may not have familiar historical ties with rugby.
“That is very aligned to how we see the Arrows brand also growing. From the get-go, I see a lot of parallels and synergies between their vision for what rugby can do in communities and how we see our brand continuing to grow in the city of Toronto.”
A world-first agreement between a professional rugby team and a non-profit organization to display their logo on the most prominent part of a jersey, there is much excitement for the potential of the partnership between the two parties.
With positives to be had across the board and the prospect of reaching new horizons for everyone involved, it is a landmark agreement between the Toronto Arrows and TIRF, who were both hampered by Covid-19 in such a significant way.
It is innovative and at the very heart of everything that rugby has at its heart. This year, TIRF will look to get back to their pre-pandemic heights and introduce at least 25,000 children to rugby in the city of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and will have the Arrows closely involved in their efforts.
“We like to talk about being the most accessible sports team in Toronto and Canada,” Srinivasan said.
“Our players are highly energetic about giving back in the community, so we are going to be looking at thought out, structured ways for our players to be involved in coaching sessions and generally support TIRF programming in the city.
“It is going to be a real focus, that we put energy and resources and attention into creating those opportunities where we can have out players and coaches truly having an impact.”
– Joe Harvey/The Rugby Network
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