Save Grass Roots Rugby Union in Australia

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Rugby Union is dying in Australia and we must start fighting to save it!

At the grassroots level, Rugby Union is under attack. The ARU need to wake up and start realising our sport will be no more if they continue down the road they are on. 

Recent research from Roy Morgan shows that the number of regular players aged 14 and over in rugby union has dropped from 148,000 in 2001 to just 55,000 in 2016. That’s a huge decrease of 67%.   Ballroom dancing has higher numbers.


Whilst the number of many sports have declined due to an ageing population and more indoor led lifestyles due to decreasing land sizes and no back yards for kids to kick a ball about, Rugby Union is loosing out to League, AFL and the almighty Soccer who is head honcho and growing fast with 623,000 participants Australia wide. Aussie Rules has 253,000, with just a 1% decline, while rugby league has 127,000 with a 27% decline.

The amount of money going to the ARU, State based rugby and local rugby governing bodies collected from amateur Rugby Union Clubs seems to be solely used to benefit Super Rugby or Private school rugby.  Where are the participation officers in local schools? Where are the ARU grassroots programs?

In any sport the amateurs, the junior players, clubs and volunteers are the life-blood of the sport. Without them there is no game, no system. They provide the participants and fans, breed and develop the professionals and provide the framework for the sport to exist.   Where is their support?

 The ARU is systematically starving the people and the clubs it desperately needs to survive not to mention getting them massively offside.
This year we saw the introduction of a new payment system that ensures the ARU and governing bodies get their money ASAP but what about the clubs?

As all avid Rugby Union followers know, it’s not only in grassroots where rugby union is losing out. The professional game is a shambles. Super Rugby is struggling, the Wallabies have been in free-fall since the 2015 World Cup final. The NRL, AFL and A-League are winning the fight in Australia for the best athletes.

 For far too long Rugby Union in Australia has been based around the private school system which it cannot continue to do as the numbers are no longer there.

In countries like New Zealand, South Africa and England, Rugby is far more geared to the working class with the calibre of teams speaking for themselves.  

In a country of just 23 million where the battle for the sporting hearts and minds of boys and girls is relentless why are we not trying to grow this great sport and gear it to all not just middle class, private school types.

This sport of ours needs to spread its wings and focus on getting more kids and adults playing the game.  ARU you need to listen.  It needs to entice people from all backgrounds, not just those from middle class families with children in private schools. Grassroots rugby union needs investment and support, not crippling fees and being taken for granted. The Australian population, and its sporting habits, are changing and rugby union needs to evolve with the times or risk irrelevance.

Bill Pulver you need to listen and take the steps as the CEO of the ARU to make changes now or watch Rugby die in Australia.



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