WOMEN AND GIRLS ACTION PLAN

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1 1 WOMEN AND GIRLS ACTION PLAN

2 2

3 3 INTRODUCTION We are immensely proud of England Women s 2016/17 achievements in securing a Six Nations Grand Slam and a clean sweep in the International Women s Rugby Series in New Zealand, before in the Women s Rugby World Cup defeating Spain, Italy, USA and France on their way to the final. Nobody could fault the players effort and it was an amazing occasion for the game, with the final broadcast on Saturday night prime time on ITV, with a peak audience of 2,651,000. The campaign inspired thousands of women to take up rugby and, having worked during the season with the women s clubs to offer ten places in the new women s domestic competition, we were able to announce Tyrrells new three-year partnership. The Tyrrells Premier 15s will significantly raise the standards of women s domestic rugby and improve standards of the women s game, as well as increase the talent pool available for selection for England in the future. This action plan recognises the significant growth in the female game over the last four years and sets out a series of interventions that the RFU plans to make over the next four years to continue to grow the number of women and girls engaging in our game. It lays out plans to grow the numbers, improve the opportunities to play, ensure that those with talent can progress, increase the numbers of females engaging in coaching, refereeing and volunteering and improve the female friendliness of facilities. Underpinning all of this it also makes a commitment to strengthening our commercial partnerships in this area and to changing the perceptions of the game. Since 2013 the number of women and girls enjoying contact rugby in England has increased by over 10,000. This huge surge in popularity has seen 300 of our member clubs across England providing playing opportunities for more than 25,000 women and girls each season. A further development of the women and girls game is an integral part of our development plan and funding agreement with Sport England and we are grateful to them or their support of our growth aspirations. Women s attitudes towards sport, and rugby in particular, have evolved over the same period. Research shows that they want physical activity to satisfy a number of needs: from contributing to a healthier lifestyle, to learning new skills and becoming the very best version of themselves. We have used this insight, and the unique values that rugby brings, to build exciting new opportunities in our clubs and education establishments, encouraging those who may have dismissed the sport as not being for them to try it. We want to build on the success of the Red Roses and our 300 clubs that have embraced the challenge to date and look forward to 2021 when our aim is to double the size of our game, 50,000 women and girls playing club rugby in teams from Under 13 to adult.

4 4 Andrew Cosslett RFU Chairman This is a really exciting time for women s rugby in England The performance of England Women, the Red Roses, is a tremendous catalyst for growth. They have been playing the most impressive and exciting rugby and are an inspiration to other women and girls thinking of taking up the game. Our elite women s teams, both playing sevens and 15-a-side, now benefit from having professional contracts so that they can prepare for and have the best chance of winning Women s Rugby World Cups and major sevens tournaments. We first awarded contracts to sevens players in October 2014, and for the 2016/17 season, professional player contracts were awarded for the 15-a-side game as part of our ongoing commitment to professionalising women s rugby. The RFU has also introduced the 10-club Tyrrells Premier 15s, a major development for the women s game in England which will significantly raise the standards of rugby domestically and help support the Red Roses ambition to be the number one team in the world. It is also expected to help grow participation and to continue to create new commercial partnerships.

5 5 Steve Grainger Rugby Development Director All of our staff have been focused, over the past four years, on working with volunteers in constituent bodies and clubs to successfully grow the numbers of girls and women playing and enjoying rugby and we have achieved great growth and more than met our targets, with some 27,500 female players currently registered. Having met our more attainable aspirations, it is now time to reach beyond them by being creative and innovative. We are looking at imaginative ways of involving even more women and girls in the game, with forms and formats attractive to them and which fit their wishes and lifestyles. This is a major imperative - the RFU s 2017/21 Strategic Plan has the women s game as a core strand within it, and the growth of the women s game is also a key element of our agreed funding programme with Sport England. Our current achievements are only the end of the beginning and we are determined to enable as many women and girls as possible to experience and enjoy taking part in rugby union.

6 6 7 KEY PRIORITIES 1 PLAYING POOL Engage 100,000 new participants 2 PLAYING OPPORTUNITIES 8,000 matches per annum 3 PLAYER PATHWAY A clear, easily understood player pathway 4 PEOPLE Recruit 1,650 new match officials, coaches and volunteers 5 PLACES Improve and increase pitch and changing provision enabling teams to train and play 6 PARTNERSHIPS Sustain and grow the involvement of existing England Rugby commercial partners 7 PERCEPTIONS Change perceptions of female rugby

7 7 Engage 100,000 new participants 8,000 matches per annum A clear, easily understood player pathway Change perceptions of female rugby Sustain and grow the involvement of existing England Rugby commercial partners Improve and increase pitch and changing provision enabling teams to train and play Recruit 1,650 new match officials, coaches and volunteers

8 WOMEN AND GIRLS ACTION PLAN IN NUMBERS Where we are now

9 Where we aim to be by 2021

10 10 PLAYING POOL TARGET Engage 100,000 new female participants in rugby and converting 25,000 more women and girls into regular club rugby WHAT DO WE KNOW Female rugby is becoming more commonplace in schools, with over 100,000 introduced over the last 5 years through CBRE All Schools O2 Touch has proved popular in bringing a new cohort of female players into the game Students in colleges are starting to show a greater interest in women s rugby, and opportunities exist to embed new and existing formats into college programmes Traditionally, university age groups have been where women started to play rugby and this environment still offers strong recruitment opportunities Over the last five years, women have been starting to take part in a broader variety of sports and activities, such as Tough Mudder, Hot Yoga, and Cross fit. The time is right to continue to ensure rugby is accessible for all women in their local communities

11 11 WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO In order to achieve our goal of increasing the player base in our clubs by 25,000 over the next four years we need to expose more women and girls to our sport for the first time. We need to significantly increase the playing pool in schools and colleges and universities along with transitioning those already playing in these environments into clubs. The education sector gives us our biggest opportunity to grow the game with good nationwide reach, meaning girls from every area of the country should have the opportunity to play rugby. With a well established CBRE All Schools programme, we need to increase the depth in existing schools, expand the reach to new schools to aid growth and ensure strong and sustainable links to clubs. Students in colleges are telling us that there is an increasing demand to play a variant of the game, and we believe that XSevens can provide a suitable format to meet this need. We will also work more closely with universities to look at how we can further promote rugby during the early part of the first term, really capitalizing on our position as a sport for people of all shapes and sizes, using good insight to develop recruitment campaigns that position rugby as a key part of university sport. Pitch up and Play sessions have proved very popular in offering a non-threatening, low commitment, fun and exciting opportunity for women and girls to try rugby for the first time. We need to expand this further and will continue to work with clubs and CBs to run regular recruitment opportunities through pitch up and play, aligned to integrated digital, marketing and communication campaigns. KEY ACTIONS: Increase the number of girls engaged in rugby through CBRE All Schools by 60,000 Support the growth of XSevens in 40 colleges, introducing 3,000 females to rugby Introduce pitch up and play into 75 Universities, recruiting 5,000 new players through 180 events Deliver 1200 pitch up and play events in clubs and community settings for females Increase the number of females playing O2 Touch by 7,000

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14 14 PLAYING OPPORTUNITIES TARGET Increase the amount of matches played to 8,000 recorded matches per annum WHAT DO WE KNOW 300 rugby clubs offer female rugby, with headroom to grow more teams, and an opportunity to reduce travel times and distances There are 512 existing female teams in 300 clubs, but not all clubs field teams at all age groups - U13, U15, U18 and Seniors Females tell us that they want to play more often, with more flexible ways to play and more variants of the game available Travel distances can be prohibitive for many players particularly at the lower levels The majority of women tell us they would like to play on Saturday, at present most club rugby for women is on Sunday The playing pool is increasing in universities - female students want more opportunities to play, both formally and informally, with increased focus on transition into clubs post university With a growing amount of activity in schools for U13s there is a big opportunity to transition girls from this into club teams at U15

15 15 WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO Improving the geographic coverage of clubs to give a better nationwide spread will enable more women and girls to access regular playing opportunities closer to home. Alongside this an expansion in the depth of provision within clubs, increasing the number of clubs that offer female teams at all age groups, will assist transition and improve sustainability of club provision. Whilst growing the Fifteen a side game needs to remain core to our efforts we will continue to gain insight from our players, and potential players, listening to their views on how regularly they would like to play and which formats of the game they would like to play. We will look at how formal and informal competition structures will need to change to give women and girls what they want, and to ensure more matches are being played. Central to this will be a consolidation of formal league structures for those clubs that want this type of playing opportunities, the introduction of more localized fixture planning between small numbers of teams at a more local level and local support from CBs to facilitate and manage clustering of clubs where necessary. We will further develop opportunities for females to play O2 Touch and create more flexible opportunities through XSevens. With the significant expansion of Rugby in the education sector we will increase our focus on transitioning the playing pool into club rugby, particularly in the teenage years. KEY ACTIONS: Increase the number of clubs operating senior women s teams by 100 Increase the number of active adult teams by 350 Develop 140 new U13 girls teams in clubs Develop 120 new U15 girls teams in clubs Develop 100 new U18 girls teams in clubs Review the playing opportunities within the existing competitions structure and develop appropriate opportunities for new and existing teams to play more matches.

16 16 PLAYER PATHWAY TARGET A clear, easily understood, single player pathway, providing appropriate competition & training in both 15s and 7s, that offers a clear progression from club to CB rugby, into Centres of Excellence and on to England age grade programmes and Tyrells Premier 15s competition WHAT DO WE KNOW As the playing pool increases more players are coming into the game and the pathway needs to evolve to continue to allow players to reach their potential There is a gap in performance level between domestic and international rugby with an identified opportunity to narrow that particularly at U18 level A focus on developing both 15s and 7s players must be reflected in the pathway to allow players to achieve their potential in both formats Appropriate CB playing opportunities are an important element of any programme There is an opportunity to utilize the coaching and player development content developed at the top end of the performance pathway (through U18, U20 and Women s Premiership 15s clubs) in CB and Centre of Excellence programmes The introduction of the new Premier 15s competition will raise the standards and profile of women s rugby and see more players aspiring to play at the highest club level

17 17 WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO Creating a more consistent pathway that is easily understood across the game by players, parents, coaches, teachers, clubs and constituent bodies is essential. We now have a critical mass of players that enables us to do this and an opportunity exists to create meaningful coaching and playing opportunities for our more promising players at CB level, moving those with the greatest potential into a national network of Centres of Excellence. We need to ensure that the pathway provides opportunities for an increased number of players, allowing them chances to compete in both 7s and 15s and to fulfil their potential. Whilst representative rugby is an important element of this pathway we need to ensure that this does not dominate and that this includes modified games, opportunities to play 15s and 7s, and a varied competition offer. We also need to ensure that these opportunities are properly embedded in the age grade structured season. KEY ACTIONS: Develop an appropriate CB level opportunity for c.850 players at U15 and U18 level on an annual basis. Develop a Centre of Excellence programme, based around Premier 15s clubs, for 300 girls at U15 and 300 at U18 level. CB and CoE playing offers will include modified games, opportunities to play 15s and 7s, and a varied competition offer Increase the playing programme for England U20s

18 18 CASE STUDIES PLACES Aylesbury RFC in Buckinghamshire was one of the first three clubs to host an RFU Rugby 365 floodlit artificial grass pitch (AGP). 1/3 of all bookings have involved women and girls. Local club Chesham RFC has seen its numbers at training increase by 50% since using the AGP. The club now hold three training sessions a week on the AGP for its colts, women s and men s teams. We ve seen amazing retention and growth in players across all our teams since training on the AGP pitch. It s been great for the club and we re really excited to continue using the facility we ve even already booked our training sessions in for the next season. Ladies Team Manager, Katie says, we ve seen our training numbers rise, as well as the quality of the sessions which has meant players find training more enjoyable and we re seeing the impact in our match results. Katie

19 19 PEOPLE When watching and playing rugby, I always thought that refereeing looked like a fun way to get more involved. However, I never thought of it as an option until a local Rugby festival needed some more referees. So, I thought I d give it go! Refereeing has given me an improved knowledge of the Laws of rugby, which is really useful when I play! I also enjoy being able to facilitate fair and fun rugby matches and just being involved in different aspects of rugby. Lucy PLAYING POOL It wasn t until Vicki was married with children that she got drawn back into a sporting environment. The turning point for me was when my two girls started playing rugby, they absolutely loved it. I was going along to watch them all the time and noticed that there were quite a lot of girls who were playing up until U18s but then didn t have a women s team to go in to. So when a group of women organised a Warrior Camp, I was convinced to go along. I turned up and it was freezing and muddy but I had the time of my life even if I was absolutely terrified to start! Most of us have never played before but we just love it. I ve found loads of friends of all different shapes and sizes who will be friends for life now. Vicki

20 20 PEOPLE TARGET Recruit 1650 new match officials, coaches and volunteers to support the growth of the women and girls game and increase the involvement of females in the management and governance of the game WHAT DO WE KNOW A growth in numbers playing will lead to pressure on existing volunteers, particularly team managers Despite significant growth in the women and girls game there are currently only 77 female match officials and 30 female rugby educators. Only four of these match officials are operating at National Panel and above Whilst there are c.1650 active female qualified coaches there are only c.10 at Level Three or Four Female role models and women and girls seeing females actively engaged in delivering the game remains an important factor in recruitment and in influencing women and girls to participate The involvement of females on Boards and in the leadership of organisations improves decision making We need to develop a better understanding of the landscape of volunteering within women and girls rugby

21 21 WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO With a game looking to double in size over the next four years, we will need to extend our volunteer workforce significantly. This offers us the opportunity to create a more diverse pool of coaches, match officials and volunteers and to be more reflective of those playing the game. It also gives us an opportunity to develop a new network of volunteers to take on Team Manager and Competition Organiser roles. We need to create meaningful and relevant campaigns to attract more females into coaching and refereeing and, as well as increasing the number of female volunteers, we will need to take targeted action to support existing female volunteers to take on positions of greater responsibility and to take a leadership role in the running of the game. Alongside this we need to support and develop our existing coaches and match officials to move on to a higher level, equipping them to coach and officiate at a higher level in both the male and female game. The Young Rugby Ambassador programme has proven successful in recruiting significant numbers of females and gives us a good opportunity to develop these individuals into visible role models for women and girls volunteering in the game. KEY ACTIONS: Recruit 400 new female coaches and 400 new female match officials Encourage existing male coaches and match officials to take an active part in the female game and support existing female coaches and match officials to do likewise in the male game Recruit and deploy 800 men and women to become team managers in the women and girls game Identify and train 50 local competitions organisers of the women and girls game Increase the number of female Young Rugby Ambassadors to 40% of the total Ensure a minimum 30% of females in the Leadership Academy and Leadership in Union Create opportunities to train and deploy 20 female coaches at Level 3/4 Identify and support 4 more female match officials onto the National Panel

22 22 PLACES TARGET Improve and increase pitch and changing provision enabling 8,000 women and girls matches to take place on an annual basis along with providing opportunities for an additional 710 teams to train WHAT DO WE KNOW Increasing the number of matches to 8000 per annum along with the increased training needs for an additional 710 female teams will place additional pressure on facilities, some of which are already close to maximum usage 51% of females who currently play club rugby on Sundays would like to play on Saturdays Playing on Sundays prevents them coaching and supporting youth teams, and socialising with club members on Saturdays which can isolate female teams Female players and administrators tell us that access to, and quality of changing facilities and appropriate social spaces in clubs, remains an area of concern Quality of natural turf pitches needs consideration, as well as increasing the amount of female teams access to AGPs

23 23 WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO With additional likely pressure on existing pitches and changing facilities caused by increased matches and teams we need to under-take a full study into the impact and develop a clear assessment of where challenges are likely to be faced. Using existing data and in consultation with affected clubs we will undertake a full audit of facilities at those clubs that are growing the women and girls game and develop options to support them. With our investment of 60m into 100 Artificial Grass Pitches we will work with host clubs/sites and the user groups to ensure that appropriate consideration in pitch programming is given and that at least 20% of usage is focused on women and girls club rugby at the times of the week most appropriate. We will identify those clubs under most pressure with pitch space and prioritise them for pitch capacity support, ensuring that their use of natural turf pitches can be improved and maximised. We will also look to prioritise these clubs for floodlight improvements. Recognising the specific challenges for clubs in providing both quantity and quality of changing facilities to support more women and girls in training and playing matches we will develop and initiate a specific changing facility project to improve the quality of, and access to, changing for women and girls. KEY ACTIONS: Drive usage at RFU Rugby Turf and Rugby Share AGP pitches by women and girls to 20% of available club rugby time Develop and initiate a facility improvement strategy to develop more and better changing facilities for female players Enhance pitch capacity and usage at a minimum of 100 clubs (prioritising those fielding, or having potential to field, female teams at all age groups) through improving natural turf pitches and enhancing floodlighting

24 24 I am pleased to see the progress made in growing the number of women and girls enjoying rugby union over the past few years. I am sure that England Women s inspirational performance in the recent Rugby World Cup will help build on this momentum, encouraging participation and attracting more media coverage and commercial partners to support the game. Tracey Crouch Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport At the time of the 1991 Women s Rugby World Cup there were around 35 English women s club sides, compared with over 300 rugby clubs now hosting women s and girls teams, and girls playing in schools and clubs at age group levels. There is still room for more players and parts of the country where it s difficult to get games but a huge amount has been achieved. My biggest wish is to see all women and girls able to play at their local club, with coaching and development as good as for boys and men. Deborah Griffin RFU Council Women s and girl s representative and Board member

25 25 The RFU has been working hard to address the fear of judgement that is a barrier stopping many women from getting active. They have been creating programmes which give women and girls the confidence to take part in rugby union and making significant investment in the women s game. I wish them well in their continuing efforts to take opportunities to women at every level of their sport. Jennie Price CEO Sport England As an analyst for ITV on the Women s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, I had lots of messages from people saying what brilliant rugby. These were people who had probably never watched women s rugby before but saw a great game of rugby and didn t see a gender. That s a great thing to hear and witness from people. I think what is exciting is thinking where women s rugby will go and the standard it will get to because it is only going to get better. Maggie Alphonsi Former England Women s player and National Member of the RFU Council

26 26 PARTNERSHIPS TARGET Sustain and grow the involvement of existing England Rugby commercial partners in developing, growing and increasing direct/ indirect investment into the women and girls game and grow the overall number of new partners WHAT DO WE KNOW Sponsorship in women s sport makes up only 0.4% of total sports sponsorship The increased support of O2 for the Red Roses and Tyrrell s recent investment in the Tyrrells Premier 15s competition is recognition of the rowing value of women s rugby Women s rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports in England. The success of the England Women s teams (15s and 7s) combined with the surge in participation should help to drive further investment With a Women s Rugby World Cup in 2017, Commonwealth Games and World Cup Sevens in 2018 and Olympics in 2020, there are opportunities to generate long term partnerships to ensure stability England Rugby is proud to have a strong and loyal following of fans across the country. In today s fast-moving world where it becomes to harder to capture the attention of the modern consumer, brands have an incredible opportunity to interact with consumers through their passion point of Rugby

27 27 KEY ACTIONS: Securing partnerships through strategic approach to the market that demonstrates partnership value as well addressing multiple objectives, both short and long term, in a competitive market environment Generating long term partnerships to ensure sustainability, maximizing the WRWC 2017 effect as well as the ongoing success of the England Teams Seeking to increase the amount of broadcast coverage of the women s game Working closely with partners to help amplify Women s Rugby in order to achieve fan growth growth

28 28 PERCEPTIONS TARGET Change perceptions of female rugby particularly amongst potential players, parents and teachers WHAT DO WE KNOW Only 7% of sports coverage in the media focuses on female sport 76% of females in the UK think that interest in women s sport has increased in recent years The RFU continues to work hard to promote female rugby in print, on air and online, including on all its digital channels and platforms Females within rugby feel strongly connected to the game, the majority saying that being part of a team is the main reason that they play However, those considering but not yet playing rugby say promotion of being part of a team is a barrier to participation, their key drivers being health and fitness benefits and trying something new

29 29 KEY ACTIONS: Create and promote a clear, consistent, empowering tone of voice across female rugby Improve engagement on England Rugby channels of females, and of female content, creating and developing high quality content relevant to females, and relevant to supporters of female rugby Continue to develop both the Inner Warrior and Red Roses brand identities to promote participation and increase fans of the women s game Utilise the power of Red Roses and Inner Warrior to generate enhanced media interest at times within the calendar, to further promote the positive aspects of female rugby in order to achieve fan growth

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