New Zealand Rugby is to invest $16.5 million on a range of initiatives in school and club rugby to support its commitment to the grassroots level of the game over the next three years.
"Rugby is at the heart of communities throughout New Zealand, providing men and women - young and old with a pursuit that inspires and unifies them and we're committed to growing the game at all levels," said Brent Anderson, General Manager Community Rugby and Provincial Unions.
The Community Rugby Strategy, launched in Auckland today at Rosmini College, prioritises under 13 rugby, secondary schools and teenage rugby, the club environment, the capabilities of those involved in rugby and in helping position rugby as the sport of choice in Auckland.
Since the first Community Rugby Plan 2004, player numbers have increased 16 percent to almost 150,000, with 29 percent increase in coaches and 15 percent increase in referees.
"Our Small Blacks programme which focuses on those under 13 has been a great help in growing the game at this level, but we want to do more to encourage a safe and fun environment for players and parents.
"As well as maintaining the growth of Rippa Rugby for children under 13, we’re also looking at ensuring a positive environment for the game and implementing mandatory Police vetting for all Small Blacks coaches and encouraging positive behaviour on the sideline through our Applaud programme."
The investment of $5.6 million per year includes an increase of $0.5 million on 2012 to specifically allow for activity to encourage greater involved in rugby across Auckland, as well as increased funding for secondary school positions.
"While we have had positive growth at almost all levels of the community game in recent years, we have seen a decline in teenage participation of almost 4,000 over ten years,” said Anderson.
"We've been out talking with teenagers to better understand their challenges and as part of our strategy have increased the focus on working with secondary schools as crucial to retaining teens in rugby."
In addition to funding the Community Rugby Strategy, New Zealand Rugby provides more than $8 million annually to Provincial Rugby Unions to run the game.
"Our vision for the wide programme of activity over the next three years is for New Zealanders to develop a lifelong love of rugby which keeps them involved whether it's playing, coaching, refereeing or volunteering at all levels," said Anderson.
New Zealand Rugby's goals for 2015
- Young people throughout New Zealand will be playing and enjoying rugby, in a positive environment. The Small Blacks Rugby programme will play a big role in providing great experiences for all those involved.
- There will be more secondary school and teenage rugby players, coaches, referees and administrators involved in rugby.
- Rugby will be the sport of choice for people in the wider Auckland area.
- New Zealand rugby clubs will be fulfilling the needs and expectations of their communities; making a valuable and meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of New Zealand from Kaitaia to Stewart Island.
- The skills, expertise and capabilities of the people involved in running the community game will be developed – ensuring world class rugby at all levels.
Police vetting of coaches
The safety and welfare of children and young people involved in rugby is paramount.
As part of New Zealand Rugby's focus on ensuring a safe environment for Small Blacks Rugby, all coaches registering for Small Blacks Rugby (aged 12 and under) and referees registering solely for Small Blacks Rugby in 2013 are required to undergo Police vetting. New Zealand Rugby has identified a number of offences that will automatically disqualify a person from coaching or refereeing Small Blacks Rugby if convicted.
Ensuring a positive environment for Small Blacks Rugby is at the heart of Applaud. It provides clubs and schools with various tools and initiatives including:
- A charter and code of conduct to promote a positive environment for rugby.
- A range of collateral and promotional material featuring Richie McCaw and other All Blacks.
- Posters, stickers, wristbands, referee bibs and ‘My Parents are Ugly' book and activities for schools.