Rugby is spreading throughout the UK to a new demographic and audience – and a ground-breaking Premiership Rugby programme is leading the charge.
Rugby4All launched in September 2014 but the uptake has been incredible, taking the sport wider than ever before. And when all eyes turn to Twickenham on 30 May for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final, 12 Rugby4All ambassadors will play their part in the showpiece event.
With the help of all 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs and their community teams women, girls and black and minority ethnic (BME) groups are discovering the power of rugby.
Rugby4All is backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to promote diversity and equality in rugby. The programme aims to increase the number of women and girls involved in the sport, to provide better access for disabled people and to promote the game among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups.
Lord Holmes, former champion Paralympic swimmer and Disability Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
"Rugby is a fantastic way of bringing people together whatever their backgrounds, developing skills and providing great health benefits. Everyone should have the same opportunity to get involved in the game regardless of their ability, gender or social background.
“I am very pleased to see the programme is making such great progress in growing rugby across diverse communities and getting more and more people involved as participants and coaches.”
Premiership Rugby’s Inclusion and Equalities Executive Tim Mathias admits Rugby4All’s early progress has been highly impressive.
“We are well ahead of schedule,” said Mathias. “The power of the Premiership Rugby club’s brands plus the outstanding delivery teams at the clubs have given the programme a bumper start. It is exactly what the game needs in a Rugby World Cup year.
“Our community teams deliver a gender and race blind programme to over 310,000 young people each year but this is the first time that our clubs and community teams have been tasked with deliberately targeting key underrepresented groups by taking rugby to a new audience.
“We are taking rugby into new communities and places that rugby hasn’t reached before, providing taster sessions and training new coaches who are representative of those communities and are able to help spread the game. We are six months in and the uptake has been fantastic – all of our clubs are delivering with great success.”
As part of this new programme Premiership Rugby is committing to:
- Recruit and train 240 BME coaches to support the growth of the game long-term.
- Provide 1,800 primary school age children in high BME communities with opportunities to try rugby.Provide 600 11-15 year olds with taster sessions with 240 going into a player development programme.
- Provide 7,200 secondary school girls with rugby in appealing formats – Touch (non-contact) and 7s – in and out of school. This will impart rugby's ethos of teamwork, discipline, enjoyment, respect and sportsmanship. The programme will also nurture talent by providing skills development camps for 1,000 girls.
- Recruit and train 480 female teachers and volunteers to support the growth of girls' rugby.
- Transition 400 female players into grassroots rugby clubs as part of a sporting habit for life.
- Twelve Rugby4All ambassadors will be taking centre stage and showing the skills they’ve learnt this season at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final.
“All 12 of our Premiership Rugby clubs have nominated an ambassador to represent the Rugby4All programme,” added Mathias. “They will be assisting with on-pitch activity before the game and at half-time.
“They are individuals who will have benefitted from the programme and have been trained up by our clubs as coaches.
“The very point of the programme is to engage in a completely new audience so the majority have only taken up rugby very recently.
“There are some teachers who are coaching rugby for the first time, while some have just begun volunteering at a rugby club. It will be a great experience for them and a great occasion. This will give them a huge boost to go back and encourage more people to play the game!”
For more information about the Rugby4All programme including how to get involved, please visit premiershiprugby.com/rugby4all.
If you want to be at the world's biggest club rugby final, this year's Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 30 May, tickets are still available from Premiershiprugby.com/final.