High praise for RFU's Go Play Rugby campaign
March 13, 2008

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport today congratulated the Rugby Football Union on the outstanding success of its Go Play Rugby recruitment drive.

The Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP was a guest at the Go Play Rugby reception at the House of Commons that announced the campaign had far exceeded its targets for bringing players back into the game.

Go Play Rugby, which coincided with England's run to the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, set out to increase adult participation by 6,000 - a six per cent increase in the space of eight months.

Today the RFU announced that 9,420 new adults aged 16-30 had registered with clubs this season.

A second stage - named Play On - now aims to make sure those players are retained and to target pinch points where school and university leavers often drop out of the game.

"I'm here to congratulate the RFU on what it has achieved so far and to offer my full endorsement to the campaign going forward," said Burnham.

"I hove a huge belief in the power of sport - and rugby in particular - to give people a sense of discipline, focus, teamwork and their obligations to others.

"What you're doing fits very well with what I do as Secretary of State. The principles are about empowering Governing Bodies to play a leading role in the development of sport and asking them to take a real focus on participation and in tackling the drop-off rate.

"It's clear to me that you are taking a leading role in reaching down and keeping people involved in the game. The RFU are showing us what can be done and one thing that's impressive about this Governing Body and this sport is that it has always shown that the top of the game has obligations to the bottom of the game."

Go Play Rugby was launched at England's World Cup training camp in July with enthusiastic support of international coaches and players.

More than 700 English clubs and 100 universities and colleges participated, using specially developed materials and methods supported by an innovative marketing and public relations campaign.

The clubs ran 300 individual recruitment events to boost their playing numbers and 28,750 people were connected with their local clubs via the goplayrugby.com website and by using a dedicated SMS postcode club finder.

The outcome by March 1 this year was that 9,420 new players had joined their clubs, exceeding the campaign target by 57 per cent and equating to 617 new teams.

The support of the National Sports Foundation, Rugby Football Foundation, Chelsea Building Society, O2 and UCAS were vital to the £1million campaign.

"Lots of people thought that a target of 6,000 people was ambitious and that we were putting our necks on the block," said RFU Chief Executive Francis Baron.

"But this campaign galvanised volunteers into action and it's our volunteers who have made Go Play Rugby the success it is.

"Any investment of this sort must deliver returns for its stakeholders and as of today there are 9,420 new players in the sport - 57 per cent above our target. We've also secured 2,000 new volunteers.

"The average club involved in the scheme has recruited 19 new players this season as opposed to five the previous year. That means they're 14 players better off. We've also recruited more coaches and referees.

"The next phase of the project, Play On, is about retaining the players, volunteers, coaches and referees to drive on the future of the game.

"In all it's an excellent example of how the Government, Sport England and a Governing Body can work together. It's a success for all of us."

RFU Community Rugby Director Andrew Scoular said: "Play has outstripped every expectation I ever had.

"We have created and delivered a resoundingly successful campaign and redefined what it is possible to achieve working together as a sport."

+ The 700 clubs taking part in Go Play Rugby have also been offered the chance to win a day's training with England players and coaches at Twickenham this summer. The competition run by O2, a proud sponsor of the Go Play Rugby campaign, will reward clubs who have forged the strongest links with their local communities. To find out more visit www.goplayrugby.com

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