My name is Lawrie Davies and I’m from Wales in the UK.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but the BBC are presently airing in the UK, a superb series entitled “Icons of the 20th Century”. You feature in their episode; https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0c104lf/icons-the-greatest-person-of-the-20th-century-series-1-6-sports, along with Muhammad Ali, Pele, and Tanni Grey-Thompson. It’s superb and very inspiring and you come across brilliantly!
As I watched it, I had the idea that I should write to you. Let me explain.
Though male (but married to a netball-mad wife), I started an initiative in the Rhondda Valleys of Wales called “Rhondda Netball” at the end of 2016 that is battling in one of the UK’s most deprived areas, where female sport has been non-existent for generations. In two and a half years, Rhondda Netball has become the largest female sports participation initiative in Wales (possibly in the UK?!), with 600+ girls and women involved our out-of-school every week, and over 1200 involved in our schools programmes. Though we’ve turned heads, the resistance and indifference, especially from political circles, is creating obstacles that shouldn’t be there, with male sport favoured massively in opportunity, facilities and funding.
When I say “massively favoured”, I’m not talking 60/40, 80/20, or even 90/10!! Here’s one example to illustrate my point…. The historical inequality in the creation of fields and facilities for male opportunities in decades gone by is compounded by the fact that today budgets have to be carved up to maintain these fields and facilities which are used almost exclusively (99%) by males. It’s like Local Government is saying, “I know today girls and women are equally important in principle, but unfortunately lots of stuff got developed for males in years gone by and we have to prioritise funding to upkeep these before we think about females.”
It’s clear that we must not just challenge the status quo, we have to go war with it. Our part of the world is incredibly insular, and many probably think that concepts such as opportunity for all or righting the gender equality imbalance is something they can ignore forever.
When Rhondda Netball started back in the Autumn of 2016, Tanni Grey-Thompson was one of the first high-profile people to endorse us, when she said, “Rhondda Netball is such a great asset to the local community, and it is so wonderful to see so many young girls getting involved! Rhondda Netball not only encourages female participation in sport but also helps young girls develop a self-belief in themselves and their own sporting talents. It inspires the young girls to dream big, to set goals and to explore their own potential. I believe Rhondda Netball has great things in store in its future and I am proud to show my support to such a wonderful cause."
As we prepare to put Rhondda Netball (www.rhonddanetball.com) on a war footing, it would be massive for us if we could do so on the back of a rousing, inspiring quote from yourself as the “pioneer-of-pioneers” when it comes to equality for women generally, and sport in particular.
You can find out more about us on our website or perhaps drop Tanni an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or if you or your staff have any questions, please let me know.
Assuming you’ll be up for helping us out with this, let me also say that if it would help that I pen a first draft which you/your staff then edit and put your personal stamp on, please just let me know.
Many thanks Billie Jean and let me end by saying you’re an absolute legend! You’re an inspiration to millions; and an inspiration to me as one of those millions!! Thank you for role-modelling a never-say-never spirit and for refusing to be put off by what must have been incredibly challenging obstacles and negative attitudes.
Like I said, you’re an inspiration, and please know that won’t change one bit if you feel that for whatever reason, you cannot endorse Rhondda Netball.
All the very best,
Lawrie R. Davies, LLB
Founder & Managing Director