- RFU welcomes 'encouraging' report of rise in player numbers
- Goal now to continue growth and implement more initiatives
The number of people playing rugby union grew by 26,000 in the year to April 2012 according to figures released by Sport England.
The Active People Survey (APS) records that participation in England increased in each of the last four quarters from 170,300 to 196,300 and that the Rugby Football Union is on track to meet growth targets.
Over the past year there were important gains in the 20-24 (+1.4% to 53,300) and 25-29 age groups (+0.98% to 36,000) as well as in the 16+ education sector (+1.78% to 99,500). Sport England’s APS report notes that “the 15-a-side game has driven the recent increases”.
The encouraging growth follows a decline in participation in the two years to April 2011.
But the survey, which measures the number of people over 16 participating in rugby union at least once a week, highlighted the need for attention to be focused on declining participation 18-19 age group.
RFU Rugby Development Director Steve Grainger said: “The figures from the survey are encouraging and show that the focused effort we’ve put on supporting our clubs and growing the game around them over the last 12 months is paying dividends.
“I’m delighted to see the growth in numbers is attributed in no small part to the 15-a-side game and the future looks bright because we’re also looking to develop sevens and touch rugby.
“I have to inject a note of caution, as we’re measuring against a previous year’s figures that included a severe winter in 2010-11.
“But we have had a good last 12 months and now our goal is to sustain that effort in the summer months with our big focus on touch rugby, then to keep on growing in the next three seasons up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.”
The RFU is working with the further education sector to retain more players in the 18-19 age group range.
“The key is the drop-off that comes when young people move from school or college into university,” said Grainger.
“We’ve recognised that and we’re working with universities to put in place some different strategies this September to try and hang on to those students.
“Overall, our aim is to keep the 15 year-old rugby player and turn him or her into a 25 year-old rugby player. If we can do that, the future of the game will be in good shape.”