Project Rugby beats two-year target
The award-winning Project Rugby initiative has exceeded its target of reaching 12,000 participants from under-represented groups in its first two years.
Run jointly between Premiership Rugby and the RFU, Project Rugby introduces BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities, people from low socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people to the game of rugby through community departments at the 12 Premiership clubs plus local and national partners.
Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby’s Director of Community & Corporate Social Responsibility, revealed to ConnectSport that Project Rugby has engaged over 12,000 people from these three groups in activity across 500 locations, 68% of which are within the top 40% of the country’s most deprived areas.
Additionally, over 1,000 participants have gone on to join their local grassroots rugby clubs, 460 of whom have a disability.
Confirmation of the project’s huge impact in its first two years comes in the wake of comments by England player Christian Wade, who criticised the lack of diversity in professional rugby and claimed the game still has a “public school” image.
Wayne said Project Rugby’s efforts to break down traditional misconceptions about the game will only intensify, with the next phase of the project now targeting 17,000 participants per year.
He said: “What we are doing is making rugby a game for everybody, providing the opportunities to get into the game and changing those traditional perceptions which through programmes like Project Rugby we feel will become outdated.
“Look at the make-up of the England squad - there’s a very high proportion of people from BAME backgrounds like Anthony Watson, Maro Itoje, Danny Cipriani, Courtney Lawes, Kyle Sinckler and Jonathan Joseph, who are fantastic role models for young BAME players.
“But we’ve got to still work hard to break the barriers down.”
Project Rugby aims to bypass the traditional obstacles that may stop people from minority groups participating in the game. Rather than hosting activity in the potentially alienating environment of a local rugby club, they take the game into the heart of communities - schools, youth clubs, mosques, disability activity providers, mental health units and special schools, to name just a few.
National specialist partners such as Sporting Equals and IMAS (International Mixed Ability Sports) help forge these local links, as well as the local knowledge of the 12 Premiership clubs’ community departments. All activities are offered free of charge.
Wayne commented: “We’re taking the game to new places and new audiences and making access to those opportunities as easy as possible. It’s been very, very successful.”
Project Rugby has an in-built character education programme, building participants’ confidence, resilience, teamwork and leadership skills which helps them continue their sporting journey.
In the first two years, over 65% of people who were engaged in Project Rugby stated their desire to play more rugby increased dramatically.
Wayne concluded: “We’re trying to open up the game to everybody and get them to believe that rugby is a game for you, regardless of your background, religion or physical ability.”