World Rugby is celebrating a remarkable surge in global rugby participation as the sport makes a strong comeback from the disruptions caused by the global pandemic. With inspiration drawn from record-breaking men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups, the latest data for 2023 showcases a thriving rugby community.
As of 2023, rugby boasts an impressive 11% increase in participation, with 8.46 million players worldwide, spread across 132 national member unions. This surge in numbers is largely attributed to emerging rugby nations and the growing involvement of women and girls in the sport.
A Sport for All Ages and Genders
- A staggering 46 million individuals participate in rugby globally, including 1.5 million active non-registered players, 5 million participants, and 1.9 million active registered players.
- The number of adult male and female active registered players has surged by 26% and 38%, respectively.
- A remarkable 57% of all rugby players are pre-teens, and encouragingly, 24% of these pre-teen participants are girls.
- Nearly a quarter of all participants are female, underscoring the sport’s strategic focus on inclusivity and growth.
- The global number of rugby clubs has soared by over 30%, with countries like Belgium, Spain, Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia experiencing robust growth.
This remarkable growth follows the resounding success of the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, which shattered previous records in attendance, engagement, and viewership. This success has provided a strong foundation for inspiring the next generation of players and supporters, both for men’s and women’s rugby.
The surge in participation comes after a challenging period during the global pandemic when World Rugby collaborated with its member unions to facilitate the safe return of rugby. This involved the implementation of Covid-related law variations, Game on Global Community Law Variations, and recommendations for lowering tackle height. Furthermore, World Rugby worked closely with unions to improve the accuracy of player data, crucial for tracking participation levels.
The pandemic-induced decline in participation was exacerbated by the suspension of casual rugby in schools and introductory Get Into Rugby (GIR) programs in many nations. GIR typically engages up to two million participants annually, and its resurgence post-pandemic has been instrumental in rugby’s revival.
Investing in Rugby’s Future
World Rugby has committed £575 million to support the development of the sport between 2020 and 2023. This investment encompasses support for unions and regions to foster the growth of rugby worldwide. It also involves the provision of a broader range of services to empower these entities to expand the sport’s reach.
Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby Chairman, commented on these developments, saying, “There truly is a form of the game for all… I am excited to see girls and boys, men and women return to the sport in their millions or taking it up for the first time.”
He emphasized the need to continue making rugby safer, more attractive, accessible, and relevant, particularly in non-traditional rugby-playing nations.
Jason Lewis, World Rugby Participation Director, highlighted the surge in participation among pre-teens, showcasing a deep connection between the sport’s appeal and the next generation of players. He stressed the importance of retaining players in a competitive sports and entertainment landscape.
World Rugby’s participation plan focuses on sustainable, long-term growth. It seeks to enhance unions’ ability to promote participation, both by attracting new players and retaining existing ones. The plan recognizes the diversity of rugby’s global landscape and tailors its approach to cater to established and emerging nations’ unique needs.
In conclusion, the surge in global rugby participation is a testament to the sport’s resilience and appeal. As the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France approaches, rugby continues to captivate individuals of all ages and backgrounds, promising an exciting future for the sport.