Scotland men’s sevens captain Jamie Farndale has travelled the world with his team. But the highlight of his globetrotting year will be taking part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – and not just for the rugby.
Farndale, who believes his Scotland team can medal, is on the Birmingham 2022 sustainability team, as well as serving as a sustainability ambassador for Scottish Rugby and Team Scotland. When he talks about making these Games the most sustainable ever, then, he’s not just expressing some vague hope.
The 28-year-old knows as much about sustainability as he does about rugby and has an impressive CV in both. As well as having a first-class Honours degree in business management, which included a module on business sustainability, from Napier University in Edinburgh, he has started a Masters degree on the subject at Cambridge University.
When we meet in an Edinburgh café he puts me to shame by turning up with his own reusable cup while I order my coffee in a paper one to take out in case I don’t finish it.
“I will take my own reusable cup to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and fill it up from the water fountains there and also use it in coffee shops,” said the skipper. “It will be with me all the time. It is a simple thing to do but something that can make a big difference. I am hoping as many people as possible, those taking part in the games and those attending, do the same in Birmingham.”
Talking about rugby first, he believes that his Scotland team go into the tournament in great shape after competing in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series which includes such venues as Dubai, Singapore, Vancouver, Los Angeles, London and Toulouse.
“We were then given three weeks’ break but since we have come back together again it has been all systems go for Birmingham,” said Farndale, whose team carried out their Commonwealth Games training at the indoor sporting facility at Ravenscraig near Motherwell.
“We are ready to go and feel we can medal – and want to inspire a nation by the way we play. Sevens, in the hierarchy of rugby, gets overlooked. It is a sport I love and I know, when fans come and watch it, they love it too.
“The Commonwealth Games is a platform where we can showcase sevens and the Scotland team. Whatever we can do to make people love Scotland sevens is what we want to do. We will be going to Birmingham to try and win but, whatever happens, we will be playing with pride and panache – and we will all be proud to represent our country.”
Farndale loved playing sevens in the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia and the experience he gained there is part of the reason he is so bullish about Scotland’s chances this time round.
“It was fantastic time for us all in Australia and, although we didn’t medal, I am expecting a similar great experience in Birmingham, where I think we can make the podium,” said the man who played in the Commonwealth Youth games in the Isle of Man at the age of 17.
“We are lucky to travel the world as a Scotland sevens team, but the Commonwealth Games is something very, very special where we stay alongside and meet others from different sports.
“I felt part of something really big, being part of Team Scotland on the Gold Coast and I am looking forward to enjoying the experience and being part of the Commonwealth Games team once again. There are a few of us who were in the Gold Coast sevens tournament who are in the squad for Birmingham so know what to expect and we can pass on our knowledge to the younger players in the squad. We will all be inspired by having the honour of representing Scotland, which is one of the reasons I think we will do well.”
Looking at the other countries involved, he singles out Olympic champions Fiji and South Africa as the two favourites for the gold medal.
“South Africa are always consistent while Fiji are the traditional sevens powerhouse,” he said. “What encourages us as a Scotland team is that we played all the top teams in the HSBC world sevens series and have run them all within a few points. The fact we pushed them so close in the past gives me even more confidence that it is going to click for us in the Commonwealth Games.
“We can do well and, as a captain, I will be encouraging everybody to take a role in leadership on the pitch. Physically and emotionally, when you are playing six games in a weekend you are absolutely shattered. You can go from being on a low if you lose one to having to get up again for a game two hours later.
“It is an emotional rollercoaster and dealing with that is something I am used to, having being involved in the Scotland sevens set up since 2015, and is something all the players have to deal with, especially in the Commonwealth Games where medals are at stake.”
As well as helping Scotland to a medal, Farndale’s desire is to make sure everybody involved in the sevens set-up plays their part in creating a carbon-neutral legacy at these Games.
“What people forget is the reach sports has,” he said. “If sports people and sports organisations speak about important issues and do the right things like highlighting the need for sustainability then they can help make a difference. I am passionate about the business side of sustainability and, by that, I mean staging events that make a profit but also have a positive impact on people and the planet.
“The social ocial benefits that come from sport are very obvious. Health and wellbeing, gender equality, inclusivity, getting homeless people playing sport, getting refugees paying sport, there are a lot of good things that comes with sport.
“There is also the sustainability strategy side, which includes things like preferred transport options like using electric buses, planting trees to create a lasting legacy and making sure you don’t use excess plastic at the games.
“A good example is being set in the world sevens series in Vancouver when they are trying to reduce waste. When the tournament starts every player is given a water bottle and, in the hotel, there is a refillable fountain.
“At the ground there are refillable fountains and no plastic bottles, while in other places you go there are thousands of them. It makes environmental and economic sense to reduce the numbers of plastic bottles and organisers are also saving money.”
And with that Farndale picks up his reusable cup and heads back to join his Scotland sevens team at their training camp.
“See you in Birmingham,’ he said. “And remember to bring your reusable cup and make sure everybody else brings one too. We want to make this is the most sustainable Commonwealth Games ever – as well as making sure Scotland win a sevens medal.”
Article by Rob Robertson