Local Rugby Boss Cops International Award (Source - The Jamaica Observer)
Jacob Thompson wins this year's IRB Development Award on October 21 in Paris, France.
Chairman of the Jamaica Rugby Union (JRU), Sgt Jacob Thompson, is this year's recipient of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Development Award due to the steady growth of the sport on the island.
The ex-army veteran was given the prestigious award during the presentation ceremony after South Africa dethroned England for the world title at the recent Rugby World Cup Finals in France.
In front of a packed gala, Thompson was 'speechless' upon seeing a clip outlining his achievement in the sport on the island of 2.7 million inhabitants, as he was announced as the 2007 winner.
Thompson, who came home to Jamaica from England in 1969 and started a mission to bring rugby to the island, arrived home on Monday after the IRB invited him as a special guest for the semi-finals and finals.
"I didn't have the slightest idea that I was going to be given this award, Thompson told the Sunday Observer.
"I was speechless. I just couldn't believe it because over the years my contribution to rugby... is because I loved it. And I accept this award on behalf of all the rugby players of Jamaica and the Caribbean."
The recognition is a huge "shot in the arm" for the sport regionally, particularly here in Jamaica, where the popularity of the game is gathering steady momentum, but is still some distance behind several sporting disciplines nonetheless.
But thanks to Thompson, Jamaica now at least, counts the sport in its social calendar. Rugby has been adopted and is presently played by 40 schools in Jamaica. That number is expected to be surpassed soon, as every year, based on recent trends, a new school joins the "growing" list.
It is something that Thompson, who has been the chairman of Jamaica Rugby Union (JRU) since 1999, believes has "put Jamaica on the global map".
"Getting this International Rugby Board award, they (the IRB) know that rugby is moving in Jamaica," he added.
For his outstanding effort in developing the game in his native country, the IRB has decided to increase its annual grant to Jamaica, according to Thompson, who played for Jamaica, coached a number of local teams and has been the chief organiser for schoolboy rugby to this present date.
The IRB's current grant to Jamaica stands at £37,000.
In the midst of global recognition, Thompson continues to pilot the JRU with limited resources and assistance from the government and corporate Jamaica. And that's a challenge that he needs to ultimately overcome.
This year, the country's Under-19 team created history, becoming the first country from the English-speaking Caribbean to qualify for next year's IRB Under-19 World Championships during April in Chile, but this has failed to grab the attention of the nation.
The JRU used the success of their youth team as a drawingcard, wooing sponsors to support the team. However, corporate entities have been motionless towards their plea, despite a large portion of the team's expenses already covered by the world governing body.
In addition, the JRU is in need of J$500,000 to send both its male and female teams to the North America West Indies Rugby Association (NAWIRA) Sevens Tournament from November 17-18 in Nassau, Bahamas.
But Thompson, who was selected as an executive committee member of the West Indies Rugby Union (WIRU), is soldiering ahead with the hope of turning the sport into a successful business, despite being booted off their once home ground and their financial crisis.
In making one of his perennial appeals for assistance Thompson said: "We're just appealing to the private sector to come and help us."
After all, Jamaica currently holds three of four Caribbean titles and for a country that is ranked at 77 on the latest IRB world ranking list, the chairman and his group of mostly inner-city youth, are obviously doing something right.
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.
See you in Jamaica.