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ARU reports patchy participation performance and $9.8 million deficit in last year
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has announced that participation in women's rugby sevens has grown by a third in the past 12 months with the Pearls, the national female team, acknowledged as the favourite for an inaugural Olympic gold medal.
The 33% boost in the world's fastest growing female team sport comes with the ARU electing two new women directors to its board at its AGM today (11th April).
In the main area for participation growth in a code battling for numbers and support, the newly admitted Olympic sport of sevens has seen 149 new teams created in Queensland and more than 84 in New South Wales.
The popularity of the fast-paced game has soared on the back of the Pearls, who are currently leading the World Series standings.
Australia's men's team - the Thunderbolts - are fourth overall after seven rounds in their world series following a fourth straight semi-finals finish in Hong Kong at the weekend.
Overall, total participation in Australian rugby increased by just 2.7% in 2015 due to a decline in numbers at traditional club rugby level (by - 7.6%) balanced by a growth of 8.1% in Club Sevens,
However, the ARU report that more people had a ‘rugby participation’ experience in 2015 than ever before.
In terms of participation formats, an ARU statement explained “the three distinct and complementary rugby formats - VIVA7s (non-contact Sevens), Sevens and XVs - are designed to meet the constantly changing needs and interests of all Australians.
“Following the 2015 rollout of VIVA7s and the introduction of additional sevens competitions, there have been more opportunities for rugby clubs to grow and diversify their participant base, to help ensure greater depth and diversity in the rugby community.”
The AGM was told that:
• 267,463 participants were involved in more than five games or structured sessions (in competitions and non-competition programs), reflecting an increase of 10.7% or 25,866 new participants.
• 438,882 Australians enjoyed participation experiences such as National Rugby Week in schools, gala days and ‘come and try’ events. These ‘promotional experiences’ are important in expanding rugby’s footprint – especially to public schools and females – which will be critical for future growth of the sport.
• 26,469 students participated in rugby’s five-week primary schools program (‘Game On’) and this number is expected to grow in 2016 as the ARU taps into the ASC’s network of 5,700 ‘Sporting Schools’.
• 126,571 Australian school children played rugby during National Rugby Week, which involved 8% of all Australian schools. The ARU’s challenge and opportunity for the future will be to convert these one-off participants into regular participants.
ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver explained “rugby reached new participants in 2016, and critically, most of them were young and around half of them were female.
“Growing the game requires a focus on making Rugby more accessible, and initiatives such as VIVA7s, Game On and National Rugby Week are enabling us to expand Rugby’s footprint so that it becomes embedded in the public and private school systems.”
Financially, the ARU reported a $9.8 million deficit, although Pulver explained that the game’s financial forecast is much stronger in coming years thanks to the 2016-2020 media rights arrangement.
Pulver said a 148% increase on the previous broadcast rights agreement will deliver an extra $170 million over five years.
ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne added “certainly there are substantial challenges facing us but there are also significant opportunities.
"The popularity of XVs and Sevens Rugby is growing worldwide and the 2016 Olympics will showcase Rugby to an even wider global audience."
The AGM included the re-election of former Wallabies captain John Eales as a Director, as well as the elections of former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and Microsoft Australia Managing Director Pip Marlow to the board - joining incumbent Ann Sherry.
Click here to view the Australian Rugby Union’s 2015 Annual Report.
Lower image shows women's rugby sevens.
1st April 2016 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY UNION AND SKINS SUPPORT ‘RAINBOW ROUND OF SPORT’
20th February 2016 - SUPER RUGBY LOOKS FORWARD TO EXPANDED NEW SEASON
20th May 2015 - ARU INVITES FANS TO HELP SHAPE THE FUTURE OF AUSTRALIAN RUGBY
21st April 2015 - ARU’S $6.3 MILLION LOSS BALANCED BY RECORD PARTICIPATION
26th January 2015 - ARU TO REINTRODUCE NATIONAL WOMEN’S RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
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