The volunteers at the heart of the sport

  • There are over 100,000 volunteers involved in rugby
  • brings you three stories from volunteers at heart of the sport 

From club secretaries to coaches and referees to safeguarding officers, volunteers across the country are crucial to the running the sport.

As part of National Volunteer Week, is bringing you three stories from volunteers who give up their time to grow the game.


Jo Littler’s journey into volunteering began when she took her son to play at Stratford Upon Avon RFC for the first time when he was eight.

Sixteen years later and Littler has been the minis rugby general secretary, minis and juniors fixtures secretary, senior fixtures secretary, event organiser, chair and president.

“It definitely escalated quickly,” says Littler. “There aren’t many things I haven’t done at this club now.

“I’m a hands-on person and I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. We have over 100 volunteers each season who give up their time for this club and I’m just one of them. We all care about making it a welcoming place for the community.”

Littler’s work was recognised at this year’s RFU President’s Awards where she won the Club Volunteers category.

“I was so humbled because I know there are so many other volunteers who do amazing work. Rugby teaches players respect which in turn means that those involved in the game want to help grow it.”


If there is one person who has done his fair share in growing the game it’s Fred McCarthy.

The 79-year-old volunteer began playing at the age of 11, going on to referee for 25 years before becoming a fixture secretary for 35 years.

Fourteen years ago McCarthy decided to start, from scratch and by himself, a system of merit leagues for club teams below 1st XV level.

“Most of my life has been given to rugby,” says McCarthy “Of everything I’ve done in the sport, starting the merit tables in Hertfordshire and Middlesex has been the most rewarding but also the most challenging.”

McCarthy began the new leagues in 2002 with 12 teams signing up. There are now over 80 and McCarthy has managed it all himself. 

“It’s been a huge project. It’s something I took on after I retired and it has taken time but it’s also been a fantastic thing to develop. I played a lot of 2nd XV rugby myself and to give teams of that level in this area a structure has been very rewarding.”


Providing the best opportunity and experience for children in rugby is fundamental to the sport and it’s something Jane Waterhouse gives up her time to protect.

Waterhouse’s voluntary role in child safeguarding involves a busy week of responsibilities ranging from training new officers, acting as a mentor, offering club advice and speaking to parents about regulations.

“It’s a hard role and often it can be thankless,” says Waterhouse. “But it’s absolutely fundamental to the game.

“My advice to someone looking to get into volunteering is, find an aspect or area of the game that you are passionate about and ‘just do it’. It can be very rewarding.”