During the recent Bank Holiday, Tenby native Ty Francis MBE founder of the New York Welsh diaspora network - returned to his Pembrokeshire roots for a tour spanning three local rugby clubs, aimed at reinforcing the sport’s grassroots initiatives, and promoting inclusive rugby.

Kicking off in Milford Haven, Ty gifted a new rugby kit to the Pembrokeshire Vikings, a mixed-ability squad led by Andrew Meddings and Simon Gardiner.

New York Welsh Pembroke
Ty is pictured with the Pembroke Ladies team in the new kit, along with Jennifer Harvey and Sam Kurtz MS (Pic supplied)

Their commitment to creating a space where players of all abilities can thrive on the rugby field was celebrated with a #JerseyForAll.

Notable attendees included co-sponsor Dom Barrett, MP Stephen Crabb, and MS Samuel Kurtz, with club captain and Special Olympics multi-gold medalist, Bleddyn Gibbs as the honoured guest.

Ty then proceeded to Pembroke Ladies Rugby Team on Monday morning to unveil their latest kit, supported by the New York Welsh community, including contributions from Charlotte Jupp, originally from Saundersfoot, and Glenn Treacher of The Liberty NYC. He was joined by Club Chairman Richard Jelley, Chloe Jones, Jennifer Harvey, and Samuel Kurtz MS were in attendance to mark the occasion.

The bank holiday tour concluded at Tenby United RFC’s Clicketts training ground, where the South Pembs Sharks girls rugby U16s and U14s teams were presented with their New York Welsh branded kits. Ty met with Jamie Barrellie, who oversees the hub, to celebrate the launch.

New York Welsh and Bleddyn
Pictured in the Pembrokeshire Vikings Mixed Ability Team kit with Bleddyn Gibbs, are Dom Barrett, Sam Kurtz MS, Stephen Crabb MP and Ty Francis. (Pic supplied)

This initiative held a personal touch for Francis, as the jerseys bore the initials ETS to honour his late aunt Estelle Townsend-Smith, a native of Narberth, who was also a staunch advocate for women's and disability sports.

“She was a very proud supporter of what we do for female and disability sport, so it seemed fitting to have her initials on the sleeves,” said Ty.

Since 2019, Ty along with his wife Alayna, a New York City Communications Executive, have been instrumental in equipping over a thousand Welsh individuals across women’s, girls’, and disability sports with new kits through their organisation, JerseyForAll.org

Ty, a former pupil of Tenby’s Greenhill Comprehensive School, expressed immense gratitude towards the local sports community in Wales and highlighted the invaluable support of all the volunteers.

He voiced concern about challenges grassroots sports face, including a recent setback for Tenby United’s second XV by the Welsh Rugby Union, prompting questions about the union’s commitment to grassroots sports.

South Pembs Sharks kit
Ty seen with South Pembs Sharks players and Jamie Barrellie. (Pic supplied)

“I’m thankful for the time and effort the coaches, managers, and volunteers put into supporting women’s and disability sport in Wales,” he continued.

“Alayna and I are fortunate to be able to help provide the kits, but the real work gets done on and off the pitches by the players and support staff.

“I’m also very grateful for the consistent support that Stephen Crabb MP and Sam Kurtz MS have offered.

“Grassroots sports are the lifeblood of local communities, and we are deeply disheartened to not see support from organisations like the Welsh Rugby Union and the Welsh Government.

“I was very saddened, and surprised to hear of the WRU’s recent decision denying Tenby United’s second XV into Division Four West.

Bleddyn Gibbs
Ty with Bleddyn Gibbs who was the honoured guest. (Pic supplied)

“Do they actually care about grassroots sport at all? Are they committed to inclusion and diversity efforts or are they just virtue signalling?

“The absence of support we’ve had over the last five years and this recent decision against The Seasiders certainly begs these questions.”

Tenby’s Mayor Cllr Dai Morgan also had his say on the WRU’s decision, stating it was a real “kick in the teeth” for a club that is at the heart of the community in Tenby.

“It’s an unbelievable decision. All involved at Tenby United RFC have invested blood, sweat and tears over the last few years!” he remarked.