Sport for Development: The role of professional sport

Each month ConnectSport works with the Sport for Development Coalition to create a 'call for articles'. In August 2019 articles focus on the relationship between professional sport and Sport for Development and here Community & CSR Director Wayne Morris talks about the approach of Premiership Rugby. Join us for a Twitter takeover with Wayne on Tuesday, August 27 (8-9pm).

As a long-term supporter of the Sport for Development Coalition, Premiership Rugby is an evangelist for the power of professional sport to change the lives of people from disadvantaged backgrounds across the UK and around the world. 

By working closely with Government, charities and our corporate partners I believe we can bring about a revolution which embeds the use of sport across different Government agendas and transform the way that sport is used by national and local government to improve the well-being of the nation and reduce the problems of crime, exclusion, inactivity and poor education.

I am also optimistic that now the evidence base for sport and activity is building that we will also see a new, greater appetite from the private sector to use resources to help bring about positive change in society and within its workforce as it sees the value of tackling poor workplace health.

But this will require the sector to act together to push the Sport for Development agenda and to be ruthless on focusing on improving the quality of what it delivers.

At Premiership Rugby, we have focused intensely on identifying exactly what it is that we can do better as a professional sport to bring about change and to turn that insight into a portfolio of national and local programmes which address the big public policy challenges we face – crime, education, health and social exclusion.

We’ve looked at our data, talked to our partners and participants to come up with a clear view of how our unique assets such as our stadia, brands, players, media and community outreach teams can be utilised to deliver world class execution sport for development projects tailored to specific demographics and demands. We’ve also developed a clear view of how best to deploy these assets and what makes us ‘different’. 

The result of this soul-searching is our 'Plan to Improve A Million Lives', backed by our players, coaches and partners it is our four-year strategy to help change the lives of a million people for the better. 

We are now entering the third year of that plan and are expanding our reach substantially. So far, we have engaged with more than 300,000 young people each season through programmes like HITZ, which address the education and employability challenges of young people not in employment, education or training (sometimes known as 'NEETS'), through to Project Rugby, which is transforming the way that rugby union works with disabled people.

With the Rugby World Cup coming up this autumn, we expect to build on the success of the Plan to Improve a Million Lives. We will launch new projects which will build a legacy from the excitement and media attention the Rugby World Cup will generate. Expect initiatives which enable teachers to understand and teach the game better and use it as a tool for delivering the curriculum, for example!

Our goal is to be an innovative leader in the sport for development sector. So the ‘Plan’ also includes upweighted commitments to data and insight and we are investing more in digital as a mechanism for delivering programmes and sharing knowledge inside our community teams and with our partners.

We will ensure professional rugby is one of the most professional and high-performance community partners for anyone looking to change the world through sport. So, if you want to know more about our Plan to Improve A Million Lives and build on the interest of this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, drop me a line.