Project Rugby

spear was commissioned to conduct an independent evaluation of Project Rugby. The evaluation captures evidence of outcomes achieved and draws out key lessons learnt. spear’s 2022/23 research represents the third year of programme evaluation.

Since 2017/18, considerable evidence has been collated to support the impact of Project Rugby and steer programme development. This insight, and current priorities for Project Rugby as a flagship equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) initiative has been used to inform the focus of the 2022/23 research. This Final Report focuses on the impact of Project Rugby on new players, deliverers, families and communities, and how this impact has been achieved.

Project Rugby is a flagship ED&I initiative run by Premiership Rugby in partnership with England Rugby and Gallagher. It aims to increase participation in the game by people from traditionally underrepresented groups: people with learning disabilities, from diverse ethnic communities (DEC), and from lower socioeconomic groups (LSEG). The programme also aims to support transition into local grassroot clubs, enhance wellbeing, increase social connectedness and challenge traditional perceptions of the game, positioning rugby as a sport for anyone regardless of background, ability or gender.

Key Findings

  • This season Project Rugby has engaged 15,728 new participants from underrepresented groups, retained 4,704 participants, and transitioned 634 participants into grassroots clubs
  • Since taking part in Project Rugby, around two thirds of participants say they play more rugby and want to play more rugby
  • Key successes impacting participation include the reintroduction of rugby to the PE curriculum, initiation of rugby teams in schools, new volunteer-led community clubs and successful engagement of new players from underrepresented groups
  • Stakeholders say they are more aware of barriers people from target communities face and realise the potential for people from these communities to excel in rugby, thrive through rugby, and add value to rugby
  • Players in the DEC workstrand report higher wellbeing than players in the LSEG and Disability workstrands, and males across all workstrands report higher wellbeing than females
  • Participants value the collective, co-operative and inclusive feel of Project Rugby. Male participants and players in the LSEG and DDEC workstrands report higher social connectedness than women and girls and players with a disability.
  • Half of stakeholders have proactively engaged families and the wider community which is seen to keep players engaged and create more social, diverse, and accessible rugby communities for people from underrepresented groups
  • Significant increased in the percentages of participants who say they know about their local rugby club (+63%) and are members of their local club (+164). Increased awareness and engagement is most evident among players in the Disability workstrand
  • Stakeholders say the key factor impacting transition is simply providing people from underrepresented groups with an opportunity to experience rugby and develop a passion for the game they would not otherwise have

Date: 30th August 2023

Client: Premiership Rugby

Everybody is made to feel welcome and by the end of the session, we are a little community” – Project Rugby Participant

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