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GROWING THE GRASSROOTS


TOM WALKER, MANAGING EDITOR, SPORTS MANAGEMENT RUGBY


WORLD CUP SPECIAL


Rugby union has grown to become the country’s second most popular team sport, still trailing behind football but now ahead of cricket


STRENGTH OF THE UNION


The number of people regularly playing rugby has fluctuated over the past decade – but legacy plans for the World Cup could see that change to continual growth


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t’s an exciting year for English rugby. The Rugby World Cup in September/ October will focus the public’s gaze on the sport and bring thousands of overseas rugby fans to the UK. The 13


venues that will host the World Cup have been spread across 10 cities, meaning that the positive effects of hosting the event will be felt in every corner of the country. The tournament will also be used to


promote the game and it is hoped the heightened exposure will bring more players to the sport at community and club level. The national governing body, Rugby Football Union (RFU), is certainly taking no chances. It’s been preparing ways to create a legacy from the 42-day tournament since 2012, when it published its wide-ranging Lead Up & Legacy document. The publication outlines detailed plans and tangible targets for participation, coaching, volunteers, facilities and outreach programmes. Steve Grainger, RFU’s rugby


development director, says: “It’s important we seize the opportunity that hosting the


World Cup brings. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a future for our sport. “We set out our Lead Up & Legacy


strategy in October 2012, with a number of priority areas in which to invest efforts and resources. They aim to ensure that new people are brought into the game, those that have left it are inspired to return and those involved enjoy the best possible experience of rugby. “In the past two and a half years a great


deal of work has been done and significant investment made in both time and resources across the priority areas. “The next 12 months will see a surge


of interest which will rejuvenate a sport which brings much more to those involved than matches and results.”


GROWING PARTICIPATION There are currently 178,800 regular rugby players (aged 16+) who play every week. According to the Active People Survey (APS) – Sport England’s annual measure of participation – the figure has fluctuated in recent years. While the current number of


regular players is lower than the first APS figure of 185,600 in 2006, it is higher than the 159,900 players in 2013. This suggests that rugby as a sport has lost some of its players since the early 2000s, but is increasing in popularity again. What’s encouraging for the RFU is the


steady increase in the number of young people taking up the sport. In the 16 to 25- year-old age group, the number of active players has increased steadily and is now 123,000 – up from 111,000 in 2013. The RFU sees the growing of grassroots


as vital and has invested heavily in improving opportunities for people to play the sport. In 2012 it made a pledge to invest £26m in grassroots rugby, with the aim of capitalising on the 2015 World Cup. The £26m has been divided among


improving facilities and recruiting people – referees and coaches – as well as setting up a range of campaigns to get more people playing rugby. Targeting young players has been a


priority for RFU and it launched the All Schools programme to increase the number


sportsmanagement.co.uk issue 2 2015 © Cybertrek 2015


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