December 15, 2007
Rugby Union in Greater Manchester and North Lancashire has receive a massive boost as a result of the Rugby Football Union's Go Play Rugby recruitment campaign launched to coincide with the recent Rugby World Cup.
Already nine clubs from Greater Manchester have reported a combined total of 181 new or returning adult players, with a number of clubs being able to launch new teams as a result of the programme. In North Lancashire, seven of the 12 clubs who have been involved have already reported the arrival of 161 new players and both areas are expecting to enhance those figures.
The RFU's �1million campaign, funded by the National Sports Foundation with the support of commercial sponsors Chelsea Building Society and O2 and involving more than 700 clubs and 130 universities and colleges nationwide, aimed to bring 6,000 players - the equivalent of 400 new teams - back to the game.
At a Go Play Rugby progress report meeting involving nine clubs from Greater Manchester, the picture painted following the campaign and other club recruitment policies was very rosy.
Statistics showed that that Didsbury Toc H had recruited 25 new or returning players, Rochdale 31, Heaton Moor 15, North Manchester 7, Bolton 14, Leigh 22, Burnage 27, Oldham 20 and Wigan 18.
Tarleton, with a spectacular increase in membership of 39 new players, have led the North Lancashire charge, with Chorley 15, Colne & Nelson 27, Tarleton 39, Preston Grasshoppers 38 (20 of which where women), Southport 14, Burnley 13 and Fleetwood 15 all adding significantly to their playing numbers.
There are numerous examples of good practice in the way so many people have been drawn to the game, but the common theme was that the campaign had stimulated the clubs to get out and recruit rather than accept the status quo.
Tarleton are a good example of what can be achieved. They used the RFU publicity material and linked it to some of their own imaginative creations based on a theme linked to the area's market garden environment and instigated an effective local campaign which resulted in 39 new players arriving at the club.
Their best recruitment venue was one pub in Croston where they recruited 8 new players, two of whom have subsequently become the leading try scorers.
Not that the GPR has been the only initiative in place to bring new players into the game. Helsby RUFC have an Awards for All bid to continue to support a Community Rugby Coach ready for submission, while a party from the RFU Development team, led by the RFU Funding & Facilities Officer Ted Mitchell have been on a fact-finding trip to Cumbria to establish the current state of play in the county.
Old Bedians have started their first ever Under 12s team and are now competing on a regular basis, while Didsbury, who are looking at a ground purchase possibility, are now hosting Manchester Metropolitan University development squads with a view to recruitment.
Old Bedians and Birkenhead Park have achieved Seal of Approval status to enhance their position in the youth rugby sector, while Bolton have submitted two funding applications to maintain their excellent momentum of recent years.
All of which suggests that the 2007 Rugby World Cup really has helped to put a spring in the step of rugby union in Lancashire.