An aggressive push into the public school system is among the key features of the Australian Rugby Union’s five-year strategic plan for 2016-2020.
Chief executive Bill Pulver says the ARU wants to “inspire all Australians to enjoy our great global game”.
Although rugby has traditionally been the domain of private schools, Pulver admits it’s imperative the game also gains exposure in public schools in order to compete with Australia’s three rival football codes.
“As a country we are changing and rugby must evolve and challenge its traditional thinking to continue to be relevant and financially sustainable in arguably the most competitive national sports market in the world,” Pulver said on Tuesday.
The five-year plan was built collaboratively by the rugby community with input from all state and territory member unions and constituents, more than 8300 fans, sponsors and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA).
The public release of the plan, which was facilitated by leading professional services company, Accenture, comes after the ARU announced a $10 million loss last year – its worst showing in more than a decade.
Pulver, though, is remaining upbeat – while realistic – and pointed out that last December the ARU announced a new media rights arrangement that will inject $285 million into the code over the next five years.
Central to the plan is grassroots development, with the ARU set to increase its development workforce by 50 per cent across the country to drive new programs in schools and rugby clubs, to address declining participation rates and encourage more girls and women to take up the sport.
“We believe there is a place in our game for all Australians,” Pulver said on Tuesday.
“Australians usually follow a range of sports, not just rugby, but our vision is for every Australian to enjoy rugby however they choose to connect with the game as a fan, spectator, administrator, volunteer or player.”