Iconic sports venues across England and Wales were renamed for 24 hours this week to honour the work of grassroots sport community workers and volunteers who, with the support of National Lottery funding, have gone above and beyond during lockdown.

The Geraint Thomas Velodrome was renamed The Chris Davies Velodrome, after the Newport chair and coach of Lliswerry Runners.

And although it will be Chris’ name adorning the Velodrome, the recognition is for the club as a whole and the volunteers who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to keep sport going in South Wales.    

Further venues including Twickenham, The Kia Oval, The Paula Radcliffe Athletics Track, The Pinsent Redgrave Rowing Lake and The National Outdoor Centre in Wales are also changing their names to honour local sports workers, volunteers and clubs.

A study commissioned by The National Lottery shows that two thirds of sport fans in Wales (63 percent) say the pandemic has increased their love of sports and appreciation for being active. 

Additionally, over a third (38 percent) believe 2020 should be the year we celebrate community sportspeople in the same way we celebrate professionals, and a similar number (30 percent) say the trying circumstances have made them even more appreciative of local sports volunteers than before.

Lliswerry Runners is a huge part of the Newport running community – in part due to its links with the local parkrun organisation – and the club has developed partnerships with local junior and adult triathlon clubs to create a leading force in sport for South Wales. 

Chris, who is also the lead ambassador for parkrun in Wales, was quick to highlight the huge community effort that has been undertaken by selfless volunteers to ensure physical activity in South Wales has continued. During the pandemic, volunteers from Lliswerry Runners worked to keep members active, creating virtual events and more localised training sessions with reduced numbers, in line with local lockdown areas and social distancing. 

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"We could not have delivered everything without the volunteering effort,” said Chris. “Two of the key volunteer roles in our club are the coaching team leads, one for the adults (Sarah) and one for the juniors (Emma) who coordinate our coaching teams

“The physical and mental benefits to our club members have been evident. You just couldn't do that unless you had people who are willing to get qualified and lead.

"When the time came to restart face-to-face sessions, that took an awful lot of courage by quite a lot of our leaders. They were putting themselves in a position which was totally unknown and in a way was quite daunting proposition.

"We have received funding every year, and every single year we invest 100 percent of grant money into qualifying new coaches.

“We've managed to build up the coaching team to allow us to expand club membership over a number of years with inclusivity as our main objective.

"Some of the coaches have wished to get more involved and have achieved higher level coaching qualifications in running and triathlon which has been possible thanks to grassroots funding
“People don’t realise how much of a positive impact this funding has. It is such a vital revenue stream and it ultimately makes such a difference to people’s lives, that’s where our gratitude comes from.”

Dame Katherine Grainger, UK Sport Chair said, “It’s fantastic that sports across the nations have been able to come together to celebrate grassroots champions who have gone above and beyond this year. Around £30m a week is raised for good causes across the UK by people playing The National Lottery, and has helped sport at all levels, from the smallest rowing club to helping athletes prepare for the Tokyo Olympics next year.”  

Sarah Powell, CEO of Sport Wales, said: “With the help of The National Lottery’s players, thousands of grassroots sports workers and volunteers from local clubs and organisations across the UK have been be able to continue to help people and communities to remain active, connected and motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grassroots sport also has a fundamental role to play in providing much needed physical and mental wellbeing in these difficult times.”