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By ARU Media Unit
More people participated in Rugby across Australia in the past year than ever before, with 615,809 participants in 2013 compared to the previous year (an increase of 27.5%), with participation in Rugby Sevens a major factor in the increase in participation numbers.
Figures from the Australian Rugby Annual Participation Census show participation in Rugby Sevens grew more than 40% in the past year, equating to an additional 15,864 participants taking part in the faster and lower contact version of Rugby in 2013 compared to 2012.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said increasing participation at all levels of Rugby and creating an inclusive Australian Rugby community is critical to the game’s long-term success.
“Growing Rugby, particularly in new markets using the exciting Sevens format of our game is critical to the long-term sustainability of Rugby as we strive to ignite passion in the next generation of players and fans,” Mr Pulver said.
Australian Rugby Union General Manager Rugby Participation, Andrew Larratt, said there was an increase of nearly 40% in the number of participants experiencing Rugby through promotional and occasional participation – to make up around a third of overall participants.
“We know if kids are exposed to Rugby at a young age, they will become fans of our sport and will have an opportunity to learn the values of Rugby – passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork,” Mr Larratt said.
“Our challenge now is to ensure Rugby remains appealing to kids who are considering what sport to pursue in a more formal sense and engage them in ongoing structured Rugby programs. We live in a competitive sporting market and our focus is on ensuring participating in Rugby is fun, reflects our values and provides an inclusive environment for girls, women, Indigenous people, players of all abilities and multicultural groups.”
For the first time, the Australian Rugby Annual Participation Census was undertaken by independent demographers Street Ryan and Associates.
“The 2013 census data brings Australian Rugby in line with the standards used by other major Australian sports. The new census process allows Australian Rugby to identify and categorise participants according to how they participate in Rugby – making it easier to provide services that are appropriate to the different participation segments,” said Wayne Street, Executive Chairman Street Ryan and Associates.
Findings from the census include:
Rugby Sevens will be featured at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow for men, and will be included at the 2016 Olympic Games for the first time in Rio de Janeiro for men and women.
Australian Rugby Union General Manager Rugby Sevens, Anthony Eddy, said focusing on programs to attract more women to play Rugby Sevens and the lure of the Olympic Games is having a positive impact on participation numbers.
“In the past year, we’ve conducted the National Schoolgirls Championship and a National Talent Identification Program which has attracted new players to Rugby Sevens.
“The increased interest and grassroots participation is being reflected on the international stage with Australia’s Women’s Sevens team winning the first tournament of the 2013-14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Dubai last November.
“This development activity is having a real impact. Five of the current national Women’s Sevens team were competing in the National Schoolgirls Championships just over a year ago, while a squad of young women will travel to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China in August. With a host of other initiatives either well underway or in the pipeline, it’s clear the future of the involvement of girls and women in Rugby looks bright.”
Additional background information about the Australian Rugby Annual Participation Census:
The IRB has announced its match officials list for the second stage of the 2014 IRB Junior World Championships overnight, with two Australians appointed to referee two of the games in New Zealand on Sunday.