Rugby legends' Festival of Sport kickstarts summer return to sport

26 May 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

As the UK’s pandemic restrictions relax, the country will prepare to make up for lost time this summer and beyond.

But for young people, last year’s social distancing rules meant an entire summer was lost for many - and sport in particular was hard hit.

A generation of sporting talent may find it harder to develop after a year without direction, while those who might have picked up a new sport for the first time through pure chance in the summer of 2020 might never find themselves with that opportunity again.

This summer, two of England’s rugby legends will aim to use the summer of 2021 to change that with the launch of a Festival of Sport, held in Norfolk in August.

Will Greenwood and Austin Healey have together run Legend Holidays and Events, offering vacations and trips hosted by sporting legends. Now the pair are bringing a group of stars together to give families the chance to spend a weekend trying out new sports in the surrounds of the Holkham Estate on the Norfolk coast.

“We've definitely had the strangest year of our lifetimes, and with a lot of people having been cooped up inside staring at full screens - or boxes on Zoom calls on a daily basis - and the Festival of Sport is the perfect way to bring families, friends and business colleagues back together and experiencing the outdoors,” said Healey.

“There's been a huge push in the last year which has brought health and wellbeing to the forefront of people’s minds. Bringing sport to people in a more popular way is important, and we think this is a great way to start that filled some content towards it.”

The dual issues of physical and mental health have long been linked, but have dovetailed during 2020 and 2021. Whilst we already knew the impact movement and fitness has on mental wellness, the link has hit home even more in the last year.

The pair say the motto of the Festival is ‘no one sits on the bench’, and despite initially planning the festival before the pandemic hit, the idea of a family festival dedicated to sport takes on a new meaning.

Greenwood said: “It doesn't matter about the quality or the level. I’ve always just thought it’s about finding a group of friends and a couple of jumpers for goalposts - that’s how I started. 

“Kids can go around and try different sports and experience something they maybe haven't tried before. They might even decide to go off and follow them a little bit more seriously. 

“But over the course of the weekend they’ll have probably 10 to 12 hours of sport, which could match the amount of sport they've had in the previous 18 months.”

Offering nine ‘core’ sports, the Festival has enlisted the likes of Olympic Gold medallists Helen Glover and Alex Danson, former England rugby star Mike Tindall, and Greenwood and Healey themselves to offer coaching as well as joining in the fun throughout the weekend.

With indoor and outdoor grassroots sport having opened up again over the last few weeks, the Festival has set about using its star power to encourage people to get back to sport and fitness again - using its platform to encourage physical activity.

“We're looking at trying to just get as many people playing sport as possible after the last year,” said Clare Morton, who co-founded the event with Greenwood and Healey. 

“That’s why we’re working with the legends and trying to get as many people active. At the Festival, we'll have a Sunday morning 5k ‘run for Ruth’ in aid of the Ruth Strauss Foundation - one of our charity partners. 

“The point is to get people to take part and get outside and just have fun, really.”

Healy summed up that approach with his own take on the event: “Everyone’s on social media trying to get hundreds of thousands of followers and influence the world - and they try to translate that into sport. 

“But we're all we're trying to do is put the fun back into sport, to let people go and experience fun if they end up being a world champion, golden. But if they end up playing in their local pub team, brilliant, as long as they end up getting outside and getting active - getting healthy, both physically and mentally.”