Rugby’s good side shown in Gough aid

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - https://www.justgiv­ cam­paign/Tay­lor­gough

Tay­lor Gough was not a star player at Le­ices­ter Tigers when sus­tain­ing spinal in­juries in a car ac­ci­dent last month which, ac­cord­ing to his fam­ily, mean he is un­likely to walk again.

The 20-year-old academy prod­uct had made just one se­nior out­ing, in a Pre­mier­ship

Cup match against Northamp­ton in 2019. By all ac­counts, he was an in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar fig­ure at the club, but chances are that few within the rugby com­mu­nity would have heard of him.

And yet, within the first 48 hours of an ap­peal be­ing launched by Le­ices­ter and the Matt Hamp­son Foun­da­tion, a Just Giv­ing ap­peal had raised just short of £30,000. Do­na­tions came not just from Tigers sup­port­ers, but from across the spec­trum to pro­vide Gough with a de­gree of fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity.

Le­ices­ter, a club who had been en­gaged in a bit­ter stand-off with play­ers over con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, have promised to do what­ever they can. Ge­or­dan Mur­phy, the club’s di­rec­tor of rugby, has phoned Gough’s mother every day since the ac­ci­dent. Sale Sharks, who had snapped up one of those con­tract rebels in Manu Tuilagi, have do­nated £1,000.

It has been a tough few months for rugby. Every sport has faced the same chal­lenge of wiped-out rev­enue streams and ripped-up cal­en­dars. Rugby has stood out due to the scale and bit­ter­ness of its in­fight­ing. Rows have ranged from Pre­mier­ship clubs threat­en­ing to de­fund the Rugby Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion sup­port pro­grammes, to French clubs promis­ing to sue World Rugby should it en­croach upon their sea­son.

Hence, the man­ner in which Le­ices­ter have ral­lied around Gough has been an im­por­tant re­minder of what rugby should stand for. “We have been blown away by the re­sponse,” Tommy Caw­ston, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Matt Hamp­son Foun­da­tion, said. “Rugby al­ways sup­ports its own. The rugby fam­ily looked af­ter Matt and it will look af­ter Tay­lor. Rugby has taken a bat­ter­ing, but it re­mains an amaz­ing sport full of amaz­ing peo­ple.”

Few are more amaz­ing than Hamp­son him­self, another Le­ices­ter young­ster who was paral­ysed from the neck down af­ter a scrum col­lapsed 15 years ago. Handed the most dev­as­tat­ing blow life could deal, Hamp­son threw him­self into rais­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds and last year opened the Get Busy Liv­ing Cen­tre, a pi­o­neer­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre for those with sig­nif­i­cant spinal in­juries. Then there is Tele­graph colum­nist Dod­die Weir, who re­ceived an equally shat­ter­ing blow when di­ag­nosed with mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease. I speak to Dod­die reg­u­larly and he has never once be­trayed a hint of self-pity or neg­a­tiv­ity. In­stead, he has been con­sumed by sin­gle-hand­edly driv­ing the ef­forts to find a cure for MND, rais­ing a scarcely be­liev­able £5 mil­lion in the process.

Dozens more play­ers have launched their own char­i­ties or foun­da­tions, from Lawrence Dal­laglio’s Rug­byWorks, that helps young peo­ple who have fallen out­side main­stream ed­u­ca­tion, to Jonny Wilkin­son’s work on men­tal health. The amaz­ing Wooden Spoon char­ity has in­vested close to £28 mil­lion sup­port­ing more than 1,000 projects help­ing dis­abled or dis­ad­van­tage chil­dren in the United King­dom and Ire­land.

A few years ago, Ja­son Leonard set up the At­las Foun­da­tion, which has raised £3 mil­lion to help more than 50,000 de­prived chil­dren across 16 coun­tries. It boasts many case stud­ies of bring­ing long-term trans­for­ma­tions in some of the world’s poor­est com­mu­ni­ties.

It has be­come easy to be cyn­i­cal about rugby’s val­ues. Af­ter all, there has been pre­cious lit­tle “re­spect” and “sol­i­dar­ity” be­tween war­ring fac­tions. It has brought me no joy as a re­porter to doc­u­ment those dis­putes. There are lots of good peo­ple in­volved in many of these or­gan­i­sa­tions who have fallen prey to my­opic self-in­ter­est.

Yet as the above ex­am­ples show, rugby has a ca­pac­ity for good like no other sport, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to help­ing those who have fallen prey to the most hor­rific cir­cum­stances. The sad­ness is that it takes a tragedy such as Gough’s to re­mind us of that.

Ral­ly­ing round: Tay­lor Gough, a pop­u­lar academy prod­uct at Le­ices­ter Tigers, sus­tained spinal in­juries in a car ac­ci­dent last month

Daniel Schofield

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