RFU outline plan for 2015 legacy
July 26, 2012
Ritchie is determined to maximise the impact of the 2015 World Cup © Getty Images
A six-year campaign is being planned by the Rugby Football Union to ensure that the sport in England makes permanent gains from the staging of the 2015 World Cup.
The aim is that rugby should be more successful in using a major event to encourage participation than the many sports which have seen numbers fall in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, which open in London on Friday.
Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the RFU, told the inaugural 'Beyond Rugby' conference at Twickenham that sports governing bodies should regard participation figures in the same way that businesses regard their financial numbers. He said: "The World Cup is a great opportunity for us. We need to be prepared and if we can't make something of this, we will have failed."
Building lasting benefits - he said he was reluctant to use the word legacy - would, he said, "be more important than selling all the match tickets. We don't want to put on a 44 day event, have everyone go to the games and then forget about it."
He pointed out that "we have the advantage that our event will take place all over the country", and that rugby already has its vehicles for development in place, in the shape of 2,000 clubs and 60,000 volunteers.
Steve Grainger, rugby development director for the RFU, said that the union saw the 2015 tournament as a centre point for the six-year campaign. He said: "We have three years of build up - on September 18th it will be exactly three years to three years to the first game - and another three of follow-up after the tournament."
Announcements about measures to push participation are likely to be made on or around September 18th, December 3rd - when the World Cup pool draw will be made - and December 22nd, when there will be 1000 days to go.
Grainger said: "We did not do badly with the sudden surge of interest in 2003 given that there had not been much preparation. This time we intend to be prepared, so the priority is to build capacity, to ensure that we have the coaches, the volunteers and referees we need for the game to expand. We need to invest in what helps them and gives them a better environment to work in."
The effort will not focus entirely on the 15-a-side game. One clear theme which emerged from the conference was the appeal of shorter forms. Grainger said: "There is a real role for touch, for 7s and other forms. They broaden the game and appeal to different groups."
And while not every other sport has prospered in participation of late, Grainger said that rugby had profited by studying the examples offered by athletics, whose increased numbers owe a great deal to the growth and wider social participation achieved by road running, and hockey.
The RFU will go into its campaign with adult participant numbers, as measured by Sport England's rolling surveys, showing a gentle rise again after a four year decline. Grainger said that the benefits of the post 2003 boom were still fully to be seen in adult numbers.
"Large numbers of kids took up mini-rugby and other forms at seven, eight or nine, so they didn't show in adult numbers," he said. "But what we're seeing is that bulge working its way through the age groups, with a lot of our clubs saying they're running Colts teams, or even Colts second and third XVs for the first time."
The RFU will also from September be promoting its All Schools programme, which will start in 100 secondary schools with no previous history of playing the game. The aim will be to find clusters of such schools and ultimately have 1,000 self-sustaining rugby playing schools by 2019.
"We want to work with groups of three, four or five schools since then you've also got ready-made competition, and to partner them with local clubs who'll help them with whatever they're lacking - it may be equipment or coach education," said Grainger.
Grainger said that rugby had to some extent been held back by an image of exclusiveness, and that the programme would aim to change perceptions of the game in non-traditional schools. It will include girls as well as boys and will use short forms as well as the 15-a-side game.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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