Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, despite two off-season surgeries/tune-ups, work, rugby and being a hubby & daddy, takes the Thursday slot on RWU. Oh, and he just added Head Coach of SDSU Rugby to his plate. Last night was his first practice.
SAN DIEGO, CA – I have been very fortunate to be involved at many different levels in the rugby world here in the United States and to be honest, the greatest part about all of it is that everyone is healthy and just waiting for their opportunity to help push USA Rugby in the right direction. Now, for our readers who find themselves in a country where rugby is a formidable sport in regards to money spent, sponsors, viewership, fan base and many other bits and pieces, here in The States we have had little to hold on to until recently, and we are starting to crawl our way up the totem pole.
A lot of what I will be referencing will be form a study; the economic impact report on global rugby in strategic and emerging markets. Here are some Highlights:
More than 5 million people play rugby in over 117 countries.
- Participation in rugby worldwide has increased 19% since the last Rugby World Cup in 2007.
- Participation figures are highest in Europe, but there are significant numbers of players elsewhere, with increasing numbers in emerging markets.
- Since 2007 participation has grown by 33% in Africa, 22% in South America and 18% in Asia and North America.
- In terms of participation, Japan, Sri Lanka and Argentina now feature in the top ten countries, which bodes well as there is a strong, positive correlation between participation and performance.
These unprecedented levels of growth can be attributed to three main factors:
1) Developments in non-traditional game formats, particularly Sevens Rugby’s inclusion in The 2016 Olympics.
2) Event hosting strategies often with linked legacy programs.
3) IRB programs and investment. £153 million (USD245.6 million) is being invested from 2009 to 2012, an increase of 20% over the previous funding cycle.
Those show just what a great sport rugby is and how much it still has to offer the world. Now, to get a little more focused on what is going on here in the United States:
The USA has an estimated 65,000 active participants and 90,000 USA Rugby members. Some 45% of participants are under 18 years old, and 25% of participants are female.
- There has been a 350% increase in rugby participation in the USA since 2004, but it is still thought of as a niche, amateur sport.
- Rugby has generated staggering growth in terms of economic impact: o The 2007 US Sevens International tournament held in Petco Park, San Diego had an estimated impact of $625,000 (USD). This increased to UD$1.04 million in 2008. o In 2010 the tournament moved to Las Vegas and was estimated to have a non-gaming economic impact of $17 million (USD) for the city. Some 18,000 spectators attended the final match.
- Growing interest is reflected by broadcast deals recently concluded – NBC/Universal have acquired full multi-platform broadcast rights for the Rugby World Cups 2011 and 2015, marking the first time the Tournament will be shown live on US network television.
- The current fan base in the USA is estimated to be 300,000-400,000 (1% of the population), but significant growth is expected over the next 3 – 5 years.
These facts and figures paint a perfect picture of exactly where we sit as rugby continues to grow here in the USA. We have a platform to develop the game and take it to people who never in their lives even dreamed of the concept and expose them to the world of rugby and all it has to offer. Looking closely, one can only see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. The hope is that we create the correct path to reach that light. We as players, administrators and fans have an opportunity at our finger tips to make it better for those that follow.
Hopefully 20 years from now, RWU will be a syndicated show and the story we will be telling will be that of a great story worthy of a Hollywood script.
Matt “The Polar Bear” Hawkins
P.S... USA Eagle legend, Phaidra Knight interviews Team USA Head Coach, Kathy Flores, tomorrow. Should be a good one – they’re two of the most dynamic figures in rugby.