World Rugby has announced that it will increase the pace of women’s rugby development through the second phase of its 2017-25 strategic plan. The transformative “Accelerating the global development of women in rugby” plan reflects the international federation’s commitment to increasing competitiveness, player, fan and commercial interest, and further advancing women in rugby around the globe.
The first phase of the plan has already seen landmark global marketing campaigns ‘Try and Stop Us’, and ‘Team Powered’ and welcomed Mastercard as the founding partner of the Women in Rugby programme. World Rugby has also delivered executive leadership scholarship and coaching programmes to support women within the game. This progress is in addition to unveiling the new WXV international competition which will begin in 2023 and an aligned global calendar.
Developed in collaboration with stakeholders across the game, the plan remains focused on:
- Growing sustainable participation
- High performance quality competitions
- Inspirational leadership on and off the field
- Profile with impact inspiring engagement
- Driving strategic sustainable investment
Alongside these key areas, will be a new pillar of activity dedicated to women’s player welfare, aligned to World Rugby’s six-point action plan. This work will include a focused women’s research stream and expansion of Injury Surveillance studies, including the ground-breaking Otago Rugby Community Head Impact (ORCHID) study, and a bespoke performance analysis resource to track the game and inform law and technical considerations. These projects will assist in determining future women’s medical and coaching best practice.
The high-performance pillar will see the roll out of the first cycle of the exciting new WXV and Pacific Four Series competitions. World Rugby will also work with unions to look at the practical requirements that need to be in place to enhance the professionalism of women’s rugby, recognising the varied development stages of the game across the globe.
As part of its focus on inspirational leadership, World Rugby will continue to implement targeted leadership development programmes and, in conjunction with International Rugby Players (IRP), create a new Player Assistance Programme to help players maximise current career and transition opportunities.
Underpinning the plan will be further work to significantly increase direct investment in the women’s game, enhance the commercial value of all women in rugby properties and develop a strong and engaged portfolio of global sponsors. World Rugby will consider other investment opportunities, including private equity and merchandising, and develop a how-to guide for unions to assist with generating new and diversified income streams to accelerate their commitment to the development of women’s game.
Just four years into the delivery of the 2017-25 plan, there are more than 2.7 million women and girls currently playing globally, making up a quarter of the world’s playing population. The latest Nielsen Research for World Rugby reported that women’s rugby is on the rise with interest in established markets up to 45 per cent and in emerging markets to 27 per cent, a 15 per cent and 22 per cent increase since 2018, respectively.
World Rugby Chief Executive, Alan Gilpin, said: “As we reach the midway point of our strategic plan, much has been achieved. From greater leadership representation and the launch of WXV, through to the inspiring Team Powered global marketing campaign and welcoming Mastercard as the founding partner of the Women in Rugby programme, the game is going from strength-to-strength.
“We now look ahead with excitement to the next four years, guided by this new expanded and enhanced plan, which will be a catalyst for further change. We will remain focused on player welfare with a new dedicated pillar of activity rooted in research and analysis. We will also seek to increase capability and capacity to grow the game and continue to drive high performance. All while sharing best practice, supporting inspirational leaders and working to further raise the game’s profile, increasing fan engagement and sustainable investment opportunities.”
The refreshed plan builds on the game-changing advances made since its inception in 2017, including:
- The historic decision to increase the number of people who may sit on Council from 32 to 49, with the 17 newly-created positions to be held by women. As well as the launch of the launch of the Executive Leadership Scholarship programme to support the normalisation of women in rugby in leadership positions
- The launch of WXV a new three-tiered annual competition model that will supercharge the women’s game when it kicks off in 2023 and aligned global calendar for the women’s 15s game
- A new ‘Women in Rugby’ brand identity and landmark global campaign ‘Try and Stop Us’ aimed at driving increased participation and engagement among fans, audiences, players and investors in 2019. With a new campaign ‘Team Powered’ and Youth Unstoppables digital content series launched in 2021
- Global payments leader Mastercard being welcomed as founding partner of the Women in Rugby programme
- The adoption of a gender-neutral approach to the naming of World Rugby’s major tournaments
- The creation of the Women’s online coaching toolkit to assist unions and regional associations in recruiting, developing and retaining more female rugby coaches at every level of the game. As well as the innovative RWC 2021 Coaching Internship Programme to create quality deployment opportunities for aspiring elite female coaches in high-performance environments