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Alfie talks challenges on and off the pitch at M4 Business Network

(L-R) Paul Byett, Gareth Thomas, Steve Galvin

One of Wales’ most iconic international rugby players has kicked off the 2019 events calendar for the M4 Business Network.

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Taking the stage at the Celtic Manor Resort for the inaugural breakfast event of the prestigious M4 Business Network, former Welsh international player, rugby pundit and media personality, Gareth Thomas, stepped up to give a heartfelt account of his personal and professional life, both on and off the pitch.

Addressing an audience of over 160 professionals from leading businesses across the region, Gareth – Alfie to friends and fans – openly described how his battles to accept himself and be accepted by those around him, rivalled any opponent he faced on the pitch.

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In addition to his numerous sporting achievements, Alfie is recognised as the first openly gay rugby player in the UK and an inspiration to those seeking to address the stigma of homosexuality within the sporting world. Yet, the man who faced down the strongest of rivals in the game, explained to a captured audience how his personal struggles had once taken him to the very brink.

Alfie recalled how overcoming those challenges relied on the same values and determination that enabled him to become a star on the field. Yet, ultimately it was the support of this family, loved ones, team and fans, that finally provided the strength to reveal the person he’d kept hidden for so many years.

After the audience’s applause for Alfie finally subsided, Paul Byett, chair of the M4 Business Network and the managing partner of it’s lead sponsor, said: “I think I can speak for all who join us today, when I thank Gareth for joining us today to so openly share his deeply personal story. His bravery on the pitch was always remarkable, but hearing the courage that it took to be the person we know today is nothing short of inspirational.”

The event also saw the M4 Business Network introduce its latest sponsor, the Development Bank of Wales, an organisation that helps Welsh businesses with the flexible funding they need to start-up, strengthen and grow.

Speaking on behalf of the Development Bank of Wales, senior investment executive, Stephen Galvin, said: “As long supporters of the M4 Business Network for many years we’re impressed with its growth into one of the most inspiring and rewarding business clubs spanning from South West Wales and over the Severn Bridge. The development bank is thrilled to be supporting the premier networking organisation in south Wales as one of its sponsors. We have funded many businesses in the region, and continue to do so, and we welcome any opportunities to bring the business community together with such a varied programme of events.”

The inaugural event of the Network’s 2019 event line up also provided an opportunity for guest to hear from the owner of the infamous Port Talbot BANKSY, John Brandler of Brandler Galleries. Mr Brandler outlined plans to feature the latest piece by the worldwide renowned street artist in a new gallery in the heart of the historic Welsh steel town. He explained that the soon to be opened Street Art Museum (SAM) will also feature additional BANKSY works, in addition those of other international artists, including Swansea’s very own Pure Evil. Mr Brandler welcomed the support of Welsh businesses to create a museum which is set to draw international media interest, with visits from the New York Times and as far afield as Japan already confirmed.

The next M4 Business Network breakfast event will take place at the Celtic Manor Resort on the 7th May, and guests will be joined by Welsh actor and activist, Michael Sheen, who will talk about the upcoming arrival of the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff this summer.