ARU says junior numbers are growing
Rugby union’s governing body in Australia has “strongly rejected” findings from Roy Morgan research reporing plummeting levels of regular participation.
The Roy Morgan findings, in a survey released last week, reported that participation numbers had plummeted more than 60 percent between 2001 and 2016, to just 55,000 active players aged 14+ — equivalent to the participant numbers for ballroom dancing.
In a statement, ARU General Manager of Community Rugby and Strategy, Andrew Larratt, said: “The Roy Morgan numbers are not supported by any other research and are strongly rejected by the ARU.”
The ARU acknowledged there had been a decline in club participation over recent years but said data in its forthcoming annual report for 2016 across age groups would show over 270,000 people “were involved in more than five games or structured sessions (in competitions and non-competition programmes), reflecting an increase of 1.5 percent or 4,065 new participants year-on-year.”
The ARU acknowledged a decline in club XV participation of almost eight percent until 2015, and a further small decline last year.
It highlighted research from the Australian Sports Commission which found “over 70,000 Australians aged 15+ participated in organised rugby at least once per week last year, while a further 117,000 had at least one organised rugby experience each month.”
In 2016 there was also a 3.5 percent increase in participation in the U6-U11 age group (pictured) which can be attributed to the successful rollout of the ARU’s five-week primary schools programme ‘Game On’.
In 2015, Game On was delivered to 26,469 primary school aged boys and girls which directly converted to the 3.5 percent uplift in 2016 junior club registrations in the U6-U11 age groups, the ARU reported.
It is also alleged that union is struggling in the face of competition from the AFL and football (soccer) and that crowds attending matches have declined markedly.
Says Larratt, “We acknowledge as a sport that there is much work to be done, particularly in arresting the decline in club fifteens participation. We are well advanced in our review of the Australian Rugby Strategic Plan, with a specific focus on this area of the game.
“There is however much evidence to suggest that our participation strategy at the junior level is generating some very encouraging results as we build up grassroots club rugby through growth in junior club rugby.”