The investment from the Asian Sports Foundation and Sport England will enable Premiership Rugby clubs to specifically target and engage female players from a range of ethnic backgrounds, to transition up to 200 new female players into local rugby clubs by summer 2022.
Run in partnership with Gallagher and the RFU, and delivered by Premiership Rugby clubs across the country, Project Rugby is one of the game’s big successes. It is designed to increase participation in the game by traditionally underrepresented groups, such as people with disabilities or from ethnically diverse or low socio-economic backgrounds. This new investment will be specifically channelled into providing opportunities for women and girls to trial and play the game through sessions held at locally accessible locations.
Charlie Scott, Chief Financial Officer for Gallagher in the UK and a Project Rugby volunteer, added: “Project Rugby succeeds because it’s a fantastically accessible and inclusive initiative, which has already enabled thousands of young people to enjoy the many benefits that come from playing the game, many of whom have never picked up a rugby ball before. We strongly believe that a person’s background should never be a barrier to participation and, through the volunteering of our colleagues, have seen first-hand the power of rugby in helping young people develop invaluable life skills, as they grow in confidence and capabilities.
“Getting involved in rugby can be particularly beneficial to women and girls. A survey we conducted when we first partnered with Project Rugby found 93% of young women agree that playing sport has had a positive impact on their self-esteem, with 92% pointing to a new-found confidence. So we’re really looking forward to welcoming many more young women, from a great diversity of backgrounds, to the sport we all love.”
Jug Johal, chair of the Asian Sports Foundation said: “We’re excited to be working with Premiership Rugby on this initiative as Project Rugby is such an incredible programme. Since its launch, everyone involved has worked hard to engage some extremely hard to reach audiences. The growth in participation rugby has seen as a result really proves that this is a sport for all and we look forward to seeing many more girls running around the pitch, rugby ball in hand.”
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby, said: “We’re delighted to receive this funding from the Asian Sports Foundation and Sport England – it’s a real testament to their belief in Project Rugby and the programme’s track record for successfully engaging and recruiting unrepresented groups to grow the sport.
“We are proud of the programme’s success and that we have engaged more than 70,000 young people since it started. However, more important than this milestone number is the programme’s contribution to ensuring a level playing field when it comes to sport and the opportunities it offers. It is only with the support of our partners Gallagher and the RFU that we have been able to narrow the gap and ensure that these young people can trial and play rugby regularly - bringing people together who might otherwise not have met, developing a sense of community and belonging. This is extremely powerful when it comes to improving the happiness and overall wellbeing of our local communities.”
One young player who has fallen in love with rugby after being introduced to the sport at the Project Rugby session held at her school by Wasps Rugby is 15-year-old Aqsa Zaheer.
“I didn’t play rugby before as no one has ever taught us about it. I knew almost nothing about the game before the session. I’m enjoying playing, rugby makes me feel excited and gives me lots of energy. From rugby, I have gained more confidence and been able to work on my teamwork. Project Rugby showed me that girls like me do play rugby,” she said.
To find out more about Project Rugby and to find a session near you, visit www.projectrugby.co.uk.