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Impact ’25: RFU launches £12m initiative to grow women’s grassroots rugby
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Impact ’25: RFU launches £12m initiative to grow women’s grassroots rugby

Women’s rugby is key to the growth of the sport overall, claimed Bill Sweeney, the RFU’s chief executive, after the organisation announced a £12m investment in the women’s grassroots game.

“When you go around the [community] game, when you go around the country and you [see] a club that is successful in terms of participation or volunteers or minis and juniors, you tend to find there is a really strong women’s section in there,” Sweeney said. “You get a better family environment overall, you get a better social mix and a better utilisation of the club. So the growth of the women’s game is key, not just in terms of women’s and girls’ rugby but it is key for the game overall.”

Impact ’25 is a programme investing in four key areas in England; facility development, coaches and match officials, playing and volunteering, and community and fan engagement. The home nations will also benefit but with a focus on performance pathways and the development of female coaches and match officials.

The programme began in the 2022-23 season and will continue until 2025-26. Impact ’25 is being delivered by the RFU in partnership with the government, Sport England and UK Sport and it aims to accelerate the governing body’s target of 100,000 girls and women playing the sport in England by 2027. The government has committed £12.13m to the programme until March 2025, and is in talks with the RFU about funding beyond that.

To date over £3m of the funding has been invested among 655 clubs. The money has been used to help over 1,200 officials and coaches in their development, to upgrade toilet facilities at 342 clubs, and to issue sanitary packages at 331 clubs. There have been 40 larger grants to create social spaces and changing rooms, while 348 clubs have also received money to introduce Under-12s set-ups.

The name of the programme is inspired by the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup being hosted in England, starting in 500 days’ time at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on 22 August.

Women’s rugby has been growing rapidly in the past few years, particularly internationally, with professional contracts introduced for England players in 2019. TV audiences and attendances have been growing too and the England and Bristol prop, Sarah Bern, says it is “brilliant to witness” and surreal to be a part of.

However, she did state the importance of England’s top flight, the Premiership Women’s Rugby, becoming fully professional, with the majority of players currently part-timers or amateurs.

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“I think it really should be [on the horizon],” she said. “It is incredibly difficult for a player these days to be in a high-performing Premiership team that requires them to be in three days a week and play Saturdays and recover and go to work and get all of their strength training in so they don’t get injured. It is a lot to ask …

“We want young girls to not just think the only way I can get a job is if I play for England in rugby, [we want them to think] actually I can be a really successful Premiership player and make that a living.”

Source: theguardian.com