YRAs In Action
Young Rugby Ambassador Ravi Wimmer explains how Rugby World Cup 2015 can inspire more youngsters to play the game and the benefits it will bring to his club.
My name is Ravi Wimmer, I am 18 years old and have been playing rugby with Broughton Park, a club based in Manchester – one of the Rugby World Cup 2015 host cities – for the last seven years.
I currently represent the third XVs and under the Rugby Football Union’s Young Rugby Ambassadors (YRA) programme – a grassroots initiative aimed at getting youngsters excited about the sport in the build-up to Rugby World Cup 2015 – my role within the club has undergone a radical transformation.
In my new capacity as a Youth Rugby Ambassador I’ll be passing on all the latest news from RWC 2015 to my club, and using the excitement around the tournament to try and bring 16-24 year olds who have left rugby back into the game. I’ll also be relaying what I’m learning at YRA conferences back to my colleagues and trying to bring a little bit of RWC 2015 magic to the club.
Founded in 1882, just 11 years after the formation of the RFU, our club is one of the oldest rugby clubs in England, and needless to say, being a YRA for such a prestigious club is a real honour and a big responsibility.
Broughton Park currently has five senior teams with around 500 players across all age groups, and while it’s great to see so many people turn up to play rugby every week, our club – just like so many other rugby clubs across England – needs to tackle the issue of player retention.
We don’t have a senior colts team anymore because many players from this age group are leaving the club once they go into full-time higher education. I know quite a few people at the club who have dropped rugby since they started university and find it difficult to get back to the club for matches, especially those who are dependent on public transport. At rugby clubs across England there is a dip in participation levels between the ages of 16-24 and the challenge of coming up with ideas to keep these players involved with club rugby is something that I’m really looking forward to.
I think that emphasising the social side of rugby is of paramount importance when it comes to keeping players engaged with a club. One thing I’d like to do is get people down to Broughton Park for a few touch rugby sessions, and approaching our current players’ friends who have shown an interest in the sport would be a great place to start.
One of the directives that YRAs are tasked with is to unearth stories about what rugby means to their communities. I’d like to explore the possibility of having a mural at the clubhouse where people involved with the club can express what rugby means to them visually. I’d also like to conduct one-on-one interviews with current and ex-players on their experiences of representing Broughton Park.
Looking at the short-term future of the club, and in particular the next two years, I’ve absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are going to feel a positive impact from RWC 2015. There is going to be a huge amount of interest in rugby in our community and I’m confident that the buzz and excitement around the tournament will act as a catalyst to encourage more people to get involved with the sport – this is great news for clubs like ours and for the game at large.
I’m already looking at ways in which we can leverage the appeal of RWC 2015 to elevate the profile of rugby at a local level. I want to organise social programmes at the club around the evening kick-offs – this could be anything from fancy dress nights to fun training sessions followed by a pie and a pint during the matches.
Something else to get excited about is that England will be playing their last Pool A match in Manchester. It’s going to mean so much to the people of this great city to see England touch down here to play a Rugby World Cup match.
Manchester is quite a football orientated city, but with such accessible ticket prices and an iconic football venue like the Manchester City Stadium, this match will be sure to draw in huge crowds and attract people from all walks of life who will want to see what all the fuss is about.
I’ve already seen it happen this year with the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia – many of my mates who are primarily football fans started following the Lions on Twitter and on Facebook and really engaged with the series. I think RWC 2015 will go one step further and not only connect with new audiences across the country but also turn England into a rugby nation.
Whatever happens on the pitch at RWC 2015, my job will be to use the excitement around the tournament to inspire new players to start playing rugby and raise the profile of our club within the community, as well as strengthening the bond between our current crop of players and the club.
The journey to RWC 2015 and beyond is going to be a busy and exciting one and as a Young Rugby Ambassador I can’t wait to get started.