The global value of grassroots rugby

A new report published by World Rugby on the social benefits of the sport has found that rugby participation currently contributes $8.4 billion in value globally and leads to players feeling happier, healthier and more connected.

The global value of grassroots rugby’ 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. It combines with World Rugby’s welfare and wellbeing initiatives to underscore rugby’s stature as a team sport for all.

Commissioned by World Rugby to support the delivery of its 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, a core component of which is to drive participation growth, the report comes at a time when global rugby participation is on the rise following the pandemic. 2022/23 figures show the total number of people playing rugby has 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 in collaboration with global management consultancy firm, Portas Consulting, 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 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 of the report:

Global rugby participation contributes $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 $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 breast cancer in women by 25%
  • A reduction in obesity in children by 30%
  • A reduction in the risk of heart disease by 15%
  • A reduction in the risk of mental illness by 33%

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 investment 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 thousand 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 $1.9bn 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, whilst young graduates who play sport earn on average $9,581 more. Meanwhile, at a global level, nearly $4.5bn 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
  • Enhancing overall experience

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 $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 $830m in value globally.

Finally, increasing women and girls’ participation would add an additional $2.8bn in value globally​. Women’s rugby currently contributes $2 billion in value globally, with an individual female player worth, on average, $3,132, compared to $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.

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.

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.”

Last updated: Aug 21, 2023, 3:43:50 PM