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New report confirms community rugby contributes US$8.4 billion in social value as global participation grows

October 26 2023 - News Release News Editorial

Rugby participation contributes US$8.4 billion in value globally and leads to players feeling happier, healthier and more connected, according to a new report commissioned by World Rugby on the social benefits of the sport.

New report confirms community rugby contributes US$8.4 billion in social value as global participation grows
  • Global rugby participation contributes US$8.4 billion in value to society and saves healthcare systems US$1.5 billion worldwide over time
  • Increasing women and girls’ participation would add an additional US$2.8bn in value globally​
  • Rugby participation growing globally with an 11 per cent increase since 2022 to 8.4 million participants across 132 nations
  • Rugby players have increased confidence, greater employment prospects and a reduction in mental health and health-related issues
  • World Rugby continues to drive welfare initiatives, including lowered tackle height at community level, to make the game more accessible
  • Report to drive World Rugby investment in key growth areas over the next decade

The global value of grassroots rugby’ report highlights the opportunity for an additional US$2.8bn in value globally by continuing to focus on strategic initiatives to close the gender gap and create greater opportunity for girls and women in particular.

Commissioned by World Rugby to track the impact of its 2021-25 strategic plan to foster a truly global and inclusive sport, the report highlights the significant benefits and positive value of rugby participation at an individual, community and societal level looking at a range of health, social and economic factors. Importantly, it combines World Rugby’s welfare and wellbeing initiatives and education to underscore rugby’s stature as a team sport for all.

Developed in collaboration with global management consultancy firm Portas Consulting, the report comes at a time when global rugby participation continues to rise following the pandemic. 2022-23 figures show the total number of people playing rugby increased by 11 per cent globally over the previous year. This includes a 38 per cent increase in the number of adult female registered players and 26 per cent increase in registered adult males. Significantly, this increase is driven by teens and pre-teens, demonstrating global increase in relevance and accessibility.

The report has been developed using a model created based on peer-reviewed academic sources and best practice. Data for the report has been collected from multiple sources, including the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) among others, as well as World Rugby’s member unions. Its aim is to better understand the Social Return on Investment (SROI) that rugby participation delivers globally and will be used to generate insights and actions to accelerate grassroots delivery and incentivise investment into the game.

Key findings

Global rugby participation contributes US$8.4 billion in value to society based on a range of health, social and economic factors, including mental and physical health, social cohesion and interaction, wellbeing, education and employment.

The report found that playing rugby leads to fitter, healthier, happier people saving healthcare systems around the world US$1.5 billion over time. By leading a more active lifestyle rugby players have better health outcomes than the general population over their lifetime including:

  • A reduction in the risk of mental illness by 33 per cent
  • A reduction in obesity in children by 30 per cent
  • A reduction in the risk of breast cancer in women by 25 per cent
  • A reduction in the risk of heart disease by 15 per cent

In addition, World Rugby and its national federations are committed to ensuring player welfare is the number one priority at all levels of the game. This is underpinned by €3million in world leading research, working in partnership with leading independent experts and embracing the latest innovations and technology.

The report also found that rugby creates inclusive and strong communities, with the average community club providing approximately 44,000 hours of positive social interaction, which equates to 1.1 billion added positive interaction hours globally. These additional hours spent in a team environment contribute to players and participants feeling a greater sense of connection resulting in improved life satisfaction and wellbeing contributing to an additional wellbeing value of US$1.9 billion globally.

Rugby’s strong intrinsic values support individuals’ personal development, through increased confidence and greater employment prospects. Active children report 14 per cent higher confidence scores, while young graduates who play sport earn on average US$9,581 more. Meanwhile, at a global level, nearly US$4.5 billion in economic benefits is contributed through rugby’s participants, volunteers and workforce.

World Rugby will use the report to focus investment in three core growth areas, which have the potential to deliver significant benefits:

  • Targeting key growth markets
  • Improving player retention
  • Increasing women and girls’ participation

The report found that broadening the global development of the game into growth markets, such as the USA, could significantly drive rugby’s social value, adding US$213 million in additional value. Likewise, increasing participation by 10 per cent overall and getting more players involved and retained in rugby has the potential to generate an additional US$830m in value globally.

Significantly,  increasing women and girls’ participation would add an additional US$2.8 billion ion value globally​. Women’s rugby currently contributes US$2 billion in value globally, with an individual female player worth, on average, US$3,132, compared to US$1,900 for males. The report also found that the social effects of rugby participation are felt more greatly in girls than boys, while playing rugby reduced a number of female-prevalent diseases such as breast cancer and osteoporosis.

The report has also identified the positive social impact of rugby with results showing that players social development and improved characteristics are helped by rugby with physically active children reporting 13 per cent higher leadership scores and 14 per cent higher confidence scores, which increases to 16 per cent in girls compared to those who are inactive.

Women’s rugby represents the single biggest opportunity to grow the sport over the next decade and women and girls are at the heart of World Rugby’s growth strategies – closing the gender gap between the men’s and women’s game would increase the number of female players by 2.3 million and have a significant impact on the growth of the game as a whole.

These learnings have been incorporated into the Capgemini and World Rugby Women in Rugby Leadership Programme, a targeted initiative to help develop and support more women within rugby in senior leadership positions. To celebrate this year’s scholars,  Capgemini and World Rugby will be bringing together the inspiring 12 women from the 2023 cohort and senior leadership from both organisations at the Women in Rugby Summit this weekend in Les Fontaines before taking in some Rugby World Cup 2023 action.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “We wanted to develop a business case that highlights the benefits of global rugby participation for all to enhance the brand of the sport, deliver sustainable investment, and build commercial partnerships in rugby. This report does exactly that and more. At a time when rugby participation continues to grow, it shows the enormous positive social impact playing rugby has on people, communities and society as whole. It also pinpoints where we have potential to deliver significant future growth and value.

“We will use this report to underpin the work we are doing with our members and partners and our mission to grow the global rugby family. This includes never standing still when it comes to making the sport more relevant and accessible to more people. Welfare underpins all of this and initiatives such as lowered tackle height, Game On law variations and non-contact forms, will continue to ensure that community rugby is accessible for all.”

World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox commented: “We are delighted to continue to champion this incredibly important and ongoing work which highlights the importance of understanding and responding to female health matters in rugby and more broadly. This will help us understand how we can better support women and girls,  grow participation further, and create greater social impact through rugby. This area of work will become even more important to World Rugby over the next two years as we work to create positive impact both on and off the field on the road to Rugby World Cup 2025 in England.”

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