In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, rugby is experiencing a remarkable resurgence worldwide. The latest data from World Rugby reveals an impressive 11 percent increase in global participation in 2023, reaching a staggering 8.46 million players. This resurgence is fueled by several factors, including the sport’s appeal among the younger generation and a strategic commitment to expanding its reach to women and girls. Additionally, emerging rugby nations are contributing significantly to this growth. In this article, we’ll explore how rugby is thriving through women and girls and making inroads in emerging nations, setting the stage for the next decade of rugby.
The Youthful Surge
One of the most noteworthy trends in the post-pandemic rugby landscape is the increasing participation of pre-teen players. A remarkable 57 percent of rugby players now fall into this age group, highlighting the sport’s appeal among the younger generation. What’s even more encouraging is that 24 percent of these pre-teen participants are girls, marking significant progress in gender inclusivity within the sport. In total, nearly a quarter of all rugby participants are female, underlining a strategic commitment to expanding the sport’s reach to women and girls.
Community Rugby Thrives
Community rugby is flourishing, with a global community of 8.46 million participants. This number includes 1.5 million active non-registered players, 5 million registered participants, and 1.9 million active registered players. Impressively, both adult male and female active registered players have seen substantial growth, surging by 26 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
The growth isn’t limited to players alone; there has also been a significant increase in the number of rugby clubs worldwide. Emerging rugby nations like Belgium, Spain, Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia are experiencing substantial growth, underscoring the sport’s expanding reach.
The data follows the success of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021, played in 2022, which shattered previous records in attendance, engagement, and viewership. This success has not only elevated the women’s game but has also set a strong platform for inspiring the next generation of female players and supporters, emphasizing rugby’s global appeal.
Investment in Growth
World Rugby’s commitment to rugby’s growth is exemplified by its substantial investment of $712 million between 2020 and 2023 in the development of the sport. This financial support extends to unions and regions, facilitating the global expansion of the game and offering a broader range of services to bolster rugby’s presence worldwide.
The robust growth in rugby participation reflects the sport’s resilience and global appeal, especially among youth and women. Rugby is solidifying its position as a sport for all, with a renewed focus on empowering women, girls, and emerging nations. The rise of rugby in these demographics not only ensures a bright future for the sport but also fosters inclusivity and diversity, making rugby a truly global phenomenon.