ASM SOS : A Call to Action

French Top 14 (and current top of the table) team ASM Clermont Auvergne through their program “ASM SOS” recently donated 20 new club branded rugby balls to Kampuchea Balopp. The balls have been quickly put to use by the kids in Cambodia under the Kampuchea Program.

We caught up with Team Manager and co-founder of the ASM SOS program Neil McIlroy to tell us more about their initiative and what the benefits are for players to be involved in social initiatives in rugby.

Hi can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at ASM Clermont Auvergne?

Neil: I retired from playing in France at Beziers and moved into the coaching staff. The Beziers coach then came to Clermont-ferrand and brought me with him to be initially Video Analyst and I then became Team Manager 10 years ago.

Can you shed some light on the background to ASM Solidarité O Sourires (ASM SOS) and why it was formed?

Neil: Three of us that regularly helped a couple of Charities in the town decided to create ASM SOS around 7 years ago. We had enough of always having to ask the club for money to organise activities. We created ASM SOS to give the club an official way of dealing with demands of the charitable type and to let us to be autonomous with independent representatives and finances.

Is it true you mainly try and benefit local organisations in France, what appealed to you about the work Kampuchea Balopp does?

Neil: We have partnerships with three Clermont based children’s charities. In our statute we decided to mainly target children’s charities and to concentrate on Clermont based ones. Unfortunately it is impossible to be more wide ranging based on time, availability and funds. Occasionally we help other organization that our players become involved in or support. That was the case with Julien Bonnaire knowing one of your representatives. The charities that we help over here are ACTE, a charity that supports children and their families suffering from cancer and leukemia, the CMI Hospital, a children’s hospital that has up to 150 children pretty severely disabled and Auvergne for an Infant which helps to finance and support children from third world countries who have to come to France for operations.

What are the benefits to the club, players and staff in getting involved in work such as this?

Neil: All of our players get involved on a voluntary basis. We have four who are active members of our committee. Our actions are by no means undertaken to benefit our personal or collective image and I can say with hand on heart that every player that helps out does so in an extremely natural way that is mutually beneficial for him and the kids. There is nothing more enriching than passing time with our Charites and being reminded of the ‘real world’ that exists outside professional sport.

What do you believe are the main benefits of rugby to young children, how can this sport help their development?

Neil: Team spirit and values. There is a place for everyone all shapes and sizes, quiet and loud kids, and no place for superstars!

How has rugby helped shape who you have become?

Neil: By learning humility and the values of which I have spoken. I am lucky to have played both as an amateur and professional as Rugby only became Pro in 1995. The sacrifices that I had to make as an amateur to succeed help me a lot today along with Team ethos. I have no qualms in saying that, with two teenage boys, my experiences in rugby have helped me as a parent as well.

Any final words on the success of the club so far this season and your predictions for RWC 2015?

Neil: So far so good for us but we have a big test on Sunday against Saracens to decide on the next step of our European campaign. Apart from that we are sitting on top of the French league so all good there.

For the RWC I have to predict a France/Scotland final, but who knows the All Blacks might make it …!

Every club from social leagues to the top of the professional league can help us make a difference in helping Kampuchea Balopp promote and develop rugby with Cambodian youth. Please do get in touch if you have questions of how you can get involved (

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