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Report unveils rugby as “force for good” serving society, SDGs, climate battle
A recent report marking the 200th anniversary of rugby unveiled how this sport is acting as a “force for good” that positively affects the society and serves the battle against climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially with regard to promoting educational and health services and supporting disabled people.
Mastercard in collaboration with the University of Bath released Future of Rugby report and Future XV squad: A celebration of the remarkable individuals from around the globe who are shaping the future of the sport, ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament kicking off across France this week.
The report identifies five ways rugby is positively impacting society, acting as a ‘force for good’ through inclusivity, health, education, the fan experience, and sustainability.
The report forecasts a 10% growth in global followers and fans of rugby by 2025, along with a 17% increase in participation in this World Cup year. For each social impact trend identified, the report suggests a focus for the future, led by the current examples making a difference today.
By 2027, the report predicts the top ten ranked rugby nations will all hold national festivals or competitions focused on the participation of individuals with disabilities. Female participation levels are also at an all-time high, totalling 2.7 million players globally, a +28% increase in registered female players since 2017. Elsewhere, growth in participation is also being seen in wheelchair rugby, with the sport now played in around 40 countries across the world since its inception less than 50 years ago.
Moreover, player associations and rugby-based charities are leading the charge in destigmatizing mental health through rugby, particularly amongst men – using the sport as a vehicle to promote better physical and mental health. Rugby is starting to be viewed as a safer sport than it was in 2021, with a 10% increase in fans in emerging markets believing the sport has been made safer.
Across the world, rugby is being used as a force for good to drive better educational outcomes and empowerment, in particular for young people. The report suggests that even more should be done to champion small-scale projects already making a difference, such as the UmRio in Brazil, or the VUSA Rugby Academy in South Africa.
Rugby can play a positive role in responding to climate change, with World Rugby leading by example being one of the first international federations to sign the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework and launching its own World Rugby Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030. Based on its research, the report predicts that by 2027, 50% of clubs in elite competitions around the world will be signatories to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework each pledging ambitious actions.
Commenting on the report, lead author and rugby science specialist Professor Keith Stokes, said “The report and the Future XV squad uncover extraordinary people and organizations working hard to create positive change at all levels of the game. On rugby’s 200th anniversary, now is the time to celebrate these innovators as well as all that rugby has achieved, but also to build on that to propel the sport forwards into the decades ahead. That means rugby continuing to innovate to attract more people into the sport, demonstrating its positive influence in society, and taking a lead on key issues. “
“Guided by rugby’s core principles of solidarity and respect, we hope this report can act as a springboard that helps to drive lasting and impactful change, which in turn will help ensure rugby continues to be a force for good in the years ahead.”
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Mastercard, added “This year, we celebrate 200 years of rugby. And while it’s a chance to look back, it’s more importantly an opportunity to look ahead to the next 200 years of the game. As sponsor of the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups, and programs like Women in Rugby, we’ve seen the incredible passion rugby evokes among players and fans alike. Mastercard is proud to be part of the legacy of this great sport—and to invest in rugby’s bright future.”
Alan Gilpin, World Rugby Chief Executive, said “This year, we are celebrating 200 years of rugby, and it is an important moment to reflect, challenge and harness the pioneering spirit of our beginnings to shape a bright future for our sport. From promoting inclusion and diversity to fostering a sense of community, rugby has the power to bring people together and create positive social change. This fascinating Mastercard Future of Rugby report does more than simply bring this to life, but it demonstrates that we have the passion and expertise to continue to move forward to shape a better game and set a positive example.”