It was Friday, 5th July 2002 when, in the Rhondda Valleys of Wales, John Bullock then Pastor at Porth’s Gatehouse Church, posed a question to three of Welsh Rugby’s more notorious former “bad boys” – brothers Chris and Clive Jones and their friend, Phil Davies, who’d all become Christians in the early 1990’s. The question was this, “What would you try for God if you knew you couldn’t fail?” and little did they know then, that it would mark the beginning point of a very special journey!
The question really went off in Phil and he immediately downloaded a strategy to put a team of positive role models in front of the kids of Rhondda, to change the way they think, encourage them to make wise choices, and to stay away from the social pitfalls so prevalent in modern-day teenage society.
Within a day or two, everything had been defined. Its name was Sporting Marvels; the goal, to put a positive Christian role model in front of every youngster of school age, every day, forever! At the time, Phil was Communications Director at Newport Rugby, with a salary that ran well into six figures. He believed in the dream so much he walked away from rugby and hasn’t taken a salary or any form of remuneration since.
Phil, Chris and Clive had built a reputation for violence and for producing violent rugby teams. In the 1980’s, when they made headlines for all the wrong reasons, no-one could’ve predicted that their lives would undergo such a remarkable turnaround.
After a fight at the 1990 Brecon Jazz Festival, Chris, the only man in world rugby to be banned for life twice, became a Christian…..in a police cell! After eighteen months trying to prove that his brother had been duped, Clive too, became a Christian!! And after seeing the lives of his two best friends so dramatically changed, Phil, the man once known as “Ming the Merciless” and on the edge of a life ban from rugby himself, became a Christian in February 1993.
It made big news at the time, especially as the trio were so high profile, steering Treorchy’s meteoric rise from the basement to top of Welsh Rugby, and prominently featuring in the “The Dream”, the highly successful BBC documentary series about Treorchy’s exploits.
Rhondda is a community that faces many challenges, and for our teenagers especially, the pressures have never been more intense. Drugs, alcohol excess, teen pregnancy, violence, and criminality all contribute to the problem. Add in the more general issues of ill-health, unemployment and the fact that the 2001 Census concluded that Rhondda was the poorest part of the UK and you’ll understand why Phil, John, Chris & Clive wanted to see change.
In the weeks following John’s question to Phil, Chris & Clive Sporting Marvels was born and just over a year later a South African by the name of Christian Welman walked into Tonypandy Community College as the first ‘Marvel’! Since that day the Marvels have been positive role models in the lives of thousands of Rhondda’s children and though much has changed between then and now, our goal, our dream, is the same today as it was when we began!