We're raising £25,000 to contribute to causes close to Ian Michael Williams' heart, keeping his legacy alive and continuing his impact on the world.

 

Ian Williams (27) was a talented tight-head prop following his dream of being a professional rugby union player.  He collapsed on 20th February 2018 whilst training for English Championship club Doncaster Knights, and, despite the best efforts of his teammates and the emergency response team, he could not be resuscitated.

 

Known as a gentle giant (unless you happened to be facing him in the pack!) Ian was well respected and liked by all his teammates, and will always be remembered with much affection.

 

For those who may not have known him personally, he also was very much more than the popular perception of the average prop forward - a talented musician with a keen interest in literature and history.  But there is no doubt that rugby was his passion and his raison d'être.

 

Starting as a mini at Havant on the south coast, he played in and with a variety of clubs throughout school and into adulthood.  His time at university afforded him the opportunity to be one of only two men to have played in BOTH the English and Welsh Varsity matches: playing in three for Swansea University against Cardiff at the Liberty and Millennium stadiums, before continuing his post-graduate studies at Oxford, where he quickly earned his first Dark Blue as part of the legendary pack that annihilated Cambridge in 2013.  He went on to score a try in the 2014 43-6 triumph, and helped seal the record number of wins in 2015.  He also represented Wales Students on more than one occasion.

 

His time studying at an end (for now!), he was determined to pursue rugby as a profession, and it was this dream he was realising when he died.

 

As we all try to adjust to his absence, we continue to be overwhelmed by the love and support from all corners of the globe.  It has become clear that to whatever degree people knew/had come across/or simply heard of Ian, he was - and is - recognised as a kind-hearted, driven and generous man.  In an address he made on leaving Sherborne School he recognised how lucky he had been to have had not only opportunities but also second chances to pursue his dreams, and advised those younger boys coming up through school behind him to grab such opportunities should they be given them.  He always believed in people's potential and in striving for the best, and it was always his intention to use his own successes to facilitate this for others.

 

We feel it is both fitting and of some small comfort to establish something in his name that will not only commemorate his life, but also create some sort of lasting legacy that recognises the impact he had on those around him.  Although its creation is a response to something sad, we are laying the groundwork now so that The Ian Williams Foundation can go beyond this sadness and truly be a vehicle for change. 

 

Our vision is to create something dynamic and impactful, encompassing everything Ian was about - big, sporty, strong, compassionate, driven, caring for others, seeing potential in everyone and wanting to put everyone in the position to do and be their best.

 

We are grateful to be working with the Atlas Foundation whose support will allow us to develop and test our work under their charitable umbrella as we continue to formalise the development of The Ian Williams Foundation itself.  All contributions through this appeal will be put towards achieving this vision and we thank you for your generosity. 

 

Still in its infancy, The Ian Williams Foundation is taking shape into what arguably falls under the umbrella of focussing on the life of the athlete – more specifically rugby players – in terms of both physical and mental health.  We are not trying to reinvent the wheel and are not restricting ourselves to absolute decisions about how The Foundation will practice for now - it will likely be working with established charities and providers using our platform to further their impact; but so far we have three areas of interest:

 

1.     To raise awareness of the need for heart screening within rugby, enabling it to become commonplace – if not mandatory – for players who are 16+ to be screened annually at all levels.  We are hoping to partner with CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) who already have a great setup and are in conversation with the RFU/WRU, and who we can work with to facilitate/fund these screenings;

 

2.     to shed light on and help improve the mental wellbeing of athletes, again with a focus on rugby players.  So often there is a hyper-masculinity that is expected within this sport in particular, and, as a result, an impact on the way in which players are willing (or rather not willing) to share or reveal mental stresses and strains.  We want to encourage real discussion and awareness of what each other are going through; and

 

3.     lastly, Ian felt strongly about facilitating opportunities for those less fortunate than himself - it was always something he wanted to do.  We want to continue this conviction within the realm of rugby - how that would look at this stage is not clear.

 

If you are interested in knowing more beyond making a donation, please do visit our website: www.theianwilliamsfoundation.org and register your interest for updates as and when there are any formal or noteworthy developments.