December 21, 2006
At a meeting on Wednesday 20 December, the RFU Management Board received a detailed progress report from �The Way Forward' project team. The purpose of this statement is to set out the background to the project, its objectives and the process being followed.
� The RFU has believed for some time that the structure of elite rugby in England needed to be reviewed if England is to keep its place as one of the leaders of world rugby at both club and country level. It has also been clear for some time that other rugby playing nations have overtaken England both on the field and in creating a structure for success in the professional game.
� The RFU therefore decided in May this year to implement a review of all aspects of elite rugby in England and to lead a debate as to the changes required to take the game forward.
� Clearly, it is vital that the review takes account of the existing structure of the English game and also looks to build on the traditions and strengths of the leading English clubs.
The Way Forward project
� Having decided that change was required, the RFU Management Board established an internal project team to draw up proposals and define a process to allow an informed debate to take place and for the wider game to be consulted as to the best way forward.
� As part of this process and in order to allow all the issues and possible solutions to be analysed in a thorough and objective manner, the RFU appointed a leading firm of strategic consultants to advise its project team and to assist in a detailed review of the structure, development, management and funding of the English professional game.
� With access to a level of resource not otherwise available to the RFU, the project team has been able to review alternative models adopted both by other rugby playing nations and by other sports around the world. It has also constructed a comprehensive and detailed economic model of the game which will allow the financial implications for all stakeholders of any changes to be considered. The work of the RFU project team will therefore allow a high quality and informed debate as to the future of the game.
� It is important to emphasise that any decisions leading out of the review will be taken only after detailed consultation with the wider game. Furthermore, the RFU has no pre-conceptions as to the outcome of this study; nor are there any barriers to change.
� Overall, once complete, the RFU believes �The Way Forward' project will, for the first time, give all involved in English rugby a comprehensive picture of the English professional game from a playing, welfare and economic point of view and allow informed judgments to be made as to the right way forward
� In undertaking this review, the RFU's objective is to find a lasting solution to the issues that are currently adversely affecting elite rugby in England and, in particular, to:
protect the safety and welfare of players at a time when the incidence and severity of injuries has risen with the increasing number of games played
secure the financial viability of the professional game and improve its prospects; and
increase participation at all levels of the game and across all regions.
� Meeting these objectives will drive an improvement in the quality of English rugby at all levels and should lead to success for the England team. English team success also requires any new structure to:
ensure that there is appropriate access to elite players for the England coaching team in order to optimise the on-field performance of the England team;
improve the current system for developing players including through the Academy system; and
ensure that there is a strong pipeline of players qualified to play for England
� As part of the review, the RFU will also be considering the most appropriate administrative and management structure for running the elite game in England
� The RFU firmly believes that if these objectives can be met, elite rugby in England will be restored to its rightful position as a leader of world rugby
� Given the importance of this debate, and in order to assist the process of developing proposals for consultation, the RFU is currently actively seeking the views of the principal representative bodies within the game. This part of the process is expected to be completed during January.
� At the same time, a consultation document summarizing the issues affecting the game and setting out alternative proposals is being prepared in order to allow an open debate to be conducted with all constituencies within the game. It is expected that this document will be published in early February 2007, initially in draft form in order to allow comment and input on the proposals.
� Once the consultation document is finalised, the RFU will launch a game wide consultation process. This process is likely to commence in March once the Six Nations championship is concluded and will last three months. It will involve roadshow presentations all over England. Only once this process is complete will any proposals be finalised.
� This extended process is designed to give all stakeholders and other interested parties sufficient time to understand the proposals that are put forward and also to contribute to the development of those proposals before any proposed changes are finalised.
Francis Baron, Chief Executive of the RFU, said today: "We need to put elite rugby in England back at the top of the world game. The RFU is determined that we take the time to have an informed debate and to find the answer that is right for English rugby. We are looking forward to the support and input of the wider game as we seek to achieve this objective"