Irish rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll explores positive role played by sport in Belfast

Brian O’Driscoll is to feature in a powerful new BT Sport film which examines the impact sport is having in tackling social deprivation across Belfast. Brian O’Driscoll’s True Champions takes the Irish rugby legend on an emotive personal journey where he witnesses the work of Active Communities Network, a youth and community development charity through which he comes to appreciate the power of mentors for those less fortunate than himself. 

The film highlights how BT Sport customers, by signing up to The Supporters Club, are helping to build a better world through sport. Active Communities Network recently received a substantial grant from The Supporters Club, enabling them to deliver a sports-based employability project to 300 young people across North and West Belfast. 

Brian O’Driscoll’s True Champions, the latest in the BT Sport Films strand which tells compelling stories within sport and wider society, premieres on Monday October 27, at 9.30pm on BT Sport 1. O’Driscoll spends time in Belfast to experience first-hand the support offered by Active Communities Network and discovers how they are using sporting projects to help young people into employment 
and training. 

Active Communities Network’s mission is to tackle poverty and social deprivation at the heart of neighbourhoods across the UK using sport and cultural programmes. 

O’Driscoll encounters the impactful individual stories of two Belfast locals who have used sport to overcome challenges in their lives. He meets Jim Donnelly who is Active Communities Network’s head of Programmes in Northern Ireland. 

O’Driscoll also meets 20-year-old Fionnuala, an inspirational young woman from Ballymurphy who has come through Active Communities Network programmes and now trains young people to be sports coaches herself. 

O’Driscoll, who retired from rugby at the end of last season, reflects on his own circumstances growing up -- and comes to further appreciate the power and influence of the mentors who are so crucial in the work of Active Communities Network. 

Brian O’Driscoll’s True Champions also takes O’Driscoll back to the rugby pitch with a touch rugby session with Ulster Rugby Club, who themselves work with Active Communities Network, with youngsters from across North and West Belfast – with O’Driscoll hearing their individual stories before giving them a very special master class in the finer points of rugby. 

O’Driscoll said: “This film has taken me on an incredibly revealing journey. Throughout my playing career I have witnessed the impact that sport can have on the world. Meeting the inspiring kids and project workers involved in Active Communities Network has taken that appreciation up a notch. Thanks to BT Sport’s The Supporters Club they will be able to do even more across Belfast and I am privileged to have seen and listened to these youngsters’ hopes, challenges and aspirations.” 

Fionnuala Conlon, Sports Development intern – Belfast, Active Communities Network, said: “I grew up, and still live in, West Belfast and it can be easy for kids to go down the wrong path as there can be a lot of negative distractions. My Daddy was a positive role model when he used to do sports with me when I was growing up and the Active Communities Network staff have been the same since. 

“Sport and the accreditations offered to me gave me the confidence and drive to be where I am today and led me to believe in myself more, grow as a person, all while showcasing my skills to employers. It was fantastic to meet Brian O’Driscoll and to show him our community here. He was very interested in the work we do, the issues that young people face, how the programme uses sport to get young people interested and how it provides them with skills which can be used throughout their lives.” 

Jim Donnelly, head of Programmes NI, Active Communities Network, said: “We started off delivering a small programme working in Ballymurphy and Whiterock, and we were getting some really strong outcomes in relation to young people’s life skills development. The Supporters Club funding has allowed us to expand our reach into a wider area taking in North and West Belfast. 

“Our work, thanks to the viewers of BT Sport through The Supporters Club, has allowed us to build bridges between young people and the business community, plug the skills gaps and help young people into employment which ultimately not only benefits the individual themselves but the wider community. 

“Having a legend such as Brian O’Driscoll come down to visit us, our young people and to see our local communities was inspiring not only for the young people but for ourselves as seasoned community workers.” 

Brian O’Driscoll’s True Champions is the eighth film produced by BT Sport Films to showcase the work of The Supporters Club – following the August broadcast of Supporters United, where former Celtic and Everton defender Alan Stubbs travelled to Glasgow to meet with young cancer patients who have benefited from the work of the young person’s cancer charity, Clic Sargent. 

The Supporters Club has raised more than £3 million from BT Sport customers and BT since launching in June 2013. This has so far been used to fund 18 sport-inspired community projects – ten in the UK and eight overseas, with over 89,000 people now signed up to the initiative. To donate, BT Sport customers can simply add £1, £3 or £5 to their monthly bill.* 

Notes to editors 

* The Supporters Club fund is managed by Comic Relief, registered charity No. 326568 (England/Wales); SC039730 (Scotland). 

About The Supporters Club 

The Supporters Club aims to build a better world by bringing people together through sport. Donations from BT and our customers are invested into projects selected in partnership with Comic Relief. When customers sign up to BT Sport, they are able to make a recurring £1, £3 or £5 monthly subscription to The Supporters Club to help support these and other similar projects.