September 25 - BMW, the new Official Vehicle Partner of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), has today announced a project here to develop the future talent of English rugby through a new Performance Academy.
The BMW Performance Academy, which will be part of the RFU National Academy Programme, has seen an initial pool of over 30 players selected for it by the England coaches.
The chosen players are from across the existing elite age-grade development programme at under-16, under-18 and under-20, as well as those aged over 20 that are close to breaking into the senior squad.
Based on their potential to graduate to the elite England team, members of the Academy will receive tailored support to help them progress as the player, club coach and the RFU work together to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP), ensuring the key skills required for the particular individual are specially developed.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster (pictured top, right), who has overseen the development of English players over the last four years in his role as RFU head of elite player development, attended the announcement event.
"The BMW Performance Academy will help equip our promising young players with the skills needed to succeed at the highest level," he said.
"We're working hard in conjunction with their club coaches to give them the individual support they need both on and off the pitch as we work towards the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and beyond."
The partnership will also see BMW work with the RFU to bring specific expertise using its people, facilities and knowledge to provide a programme that includes personal development training, BMW Ambassador Mentors such as London 2012 Olympic gymnastics medallist Louis Smith, responsible driving training and work experience.
The announcement is BMW's first major sponsorship activation in sport in the UK since London 2012, where the German car manufacturing giant were the official automotive partner for the Olympics and Paralympics and provided 4,000 low-emission vehicles to transport athletes and officials during the Games.
"This partnership with the RFU is an exciting next step in our sports involvement after London 2012," said BMW Group UK managing director Tim Abbott.
"I am delighted that the creation of the BMW Performance Academy will truly help to nurture and develop the England rugby stars of the future.
"We are determined to use the people, facilities and knowledge at our disposal to help make a tangible difference to English rugby.
"It will be a proud day for us all when our first graduate wins his England cap and we hope even represents his country at a Rugby World Cup."
BMW will be hopeful that its partnership with the RFU, which will run for the next four years, can replicate the success at London 2012.
During the Games, BMW proved one of the most visible sponsors on the Olympic Park in Stratford during London 2012 thanks to its spectacular 8,000 square foot floating showroom located between the Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Stadium.
Sophie Goldschmidt, the RFU chief commercial officer, added that the partnership is a very exciting one for both organisations.
"This is an exciting long-term partnership that will see BMW invest across the game, from the age grade sides to the England elite squad," she said.
"BMW is already bringing innovative ideas on how to share its expertise from the worlds of sport and business, to benefit the future of the English rugby."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
August 2012: BMW's radio-controlled "ferry" revels in MINI sporting adventure around Olympic Stadium
August 2012: BMW has played a crucial role in making London 2012 the most sustainable Olympics and Paralympics ever
July 2012: BMW unveils London 2012 Olympic Park floating showroom
June 2012: "Italian Job" drives into London 2012
April 2012: BMW unveils low emission London 2012 fleet