By Josh Graham, Sportsbeat
Thanet Wanderers RFC is being helped by NatWest RugbyForce to revolutionise its female rugby offering.
Chairman Chris Panteli was born in Thanet and is pioneering the work at the Kent club which was founded 135 years ago.
To welcome females of all ages to the club, a renovation project was undertaken to revamp the changing rooms and showers to make Thanet Wanderers the perfect place for stars of the future to learn the game.
Thanet Wanderers is one of eight clubs across the country to receive the support of NatWest and England Rugby to improve their facilities – with young volunteers helping to undertake the work.
Management consultant Panteli, 54, said: “We are extremely grateful to be involved in the NatWest RugbyForce programme. Because what it means is that we are being recognised for the good work we do and a club like us is all volunteer-based.
“To have that work in the community recognised nationally by people like the RFU and NatWest RugbyForce makes us very proud and thankful.
“Because we are a fairly established rugby club we didn’t really have facilities for girls to come train, change and shower at the club.
“The project was really to build those facilities into our club so we could create an environment for female rugby – and make sure that it was not an intimidating place for girls to come and train and be part of the club.”
Now into its 13th year, NatWest RugbyForce is a national programme developed in partnership with England Rugby which provides an opportunity for rugby clubs to open their doors to volunteers to help make improvements to their clubs.
Panteli revealed the club was able to raise a decent budget for the work thanks to the support of NatWest RugbyForce, Sport England via Volunteer It Yourself and the Paul Keohane Sports Fund, which aims to bring more local school kids to the sport and is named after a former player who passed away aged 52 in 2015.
He added: “That gave us quite a sizeable budget to renovate two changing rooms, update two sets of showers and add some more bathroom facilities in the club to accommodate and grow our girls rugby.
“The reaction has been good; we’ve also had skilled local companies come in to do a new boiler and windows. Local companies have assisted us in finishing off and making sure it’s a very good facility. The work they’ve done has been fantastic.”
Panteli and the Wanderers are now looking forward to an exciting future with a whole raft of female sides representing the club on the field.
“We want to grow our junior girls teams up to three teams over the different age groups,” he explained. “Once we have established those teams, we want to start a senior team and have at least one senior women’s side within the club.”
NatWest is an Official Partner of England Rugby. NatWest RugbyForce is a national programme developed in partnership with England Rugby to help rugby clubs get set for tomorrow. @NatWest_Rugby @EnglandRugby