Tim Holdsworth, senior consultant at KKP considers the impact of Rugby World Cup 2025 and what the legacy programme will mean for the women’s game.
The recent announcement that the Rugby World Cup 2025 will be hosted by England is good news for England rugby and great news for domestic women’s rugby. This is the biggest event in the women’s game and KKP was pleased to contribute to the work undertaken by the bid team that brought home the prize.
The RFU was keen to host the RWC competition to reflect the success of women’s rugby in England and to build on the growth of the game across the UK.
When the success of the bid was revealed the RFU noted that “since England last hosted the RWC in 2010, and won it in 2014, women’s rugby has grown exponentially”. The growth in female participation, which has led to there being some 40,000 registered women and girls playing in clubs across the country, is testament to the work undertaken by clubs and coaches at local level, and to the RFU’s investment in developing the women’s game.
RWC 2025 clearly represents another opportunity, both for the RFU to further grow the game in England and the UK, and for World Rugby (the organisation that oversees the staging of the RWC) to present the women’s game to a global audience.
As one might expect, legacy was at the centre of the RFU’s vision as RWC hosts, creating both an opportunity and a challenge.
The opportunity is clear. Within the bid document, the RFU envisaged RWC 2025 as a multi-city, multi-region event, bringing the world’s best players to venues across the country to create interest and engagement among new and existing audiences.
Equally clear is the challenge. Legacy is a much-promised element of every major event but bid document aspiration is not always matched by a long-term benefit to the sporting environment. However, we can be confident that the proposed RWC 2025 legacy will be delivered and make good on the promise of significant impact.
There are three strands to the legacy programme, which will be rolled out from 2022 through to 2025:
- a multi-generational legacy, creating players among younger women and girls, and fans among those women who did not have a chance to play;
- support for rugby development within the home unions and creation of capacity, via the recruitment of coaches and referees; and
- facility development and improvement to service the women’s game.
It is this third element of the legacy programme – the development of facilities – in which KKP has been able to play its part. Utilising our long experience of sport and leisure facility development, background working in and with rugby at all levels, and our extensive data analysis and mapping skills, KKP has been able to help the RFU focus on how investments in physical provision can help to transform the experience of girls and women playing the game.
There will be more detail in subsequent articles but this part of the legacy programme revolves around the development of new, and the upgrading of existing, changing and social spaces to ensure that they better reflect modern player expectations (and in particular female player expectations) of what sports facilities – and specifically rugby clubs – should offer. The legacy programme will encompass a range of investment approaches, from brand new exemplar changing and clubhouse facilities right through to minor improvements in showers and toilet accommodation.
This facilities programme is arguably a reflection of the fact that, notwithstanding good levels of investment across the board by the RFU and clubs themselves in respect of clubhouse provision for women, facility provision has not been able to keep pace. The thinking is that new generations of female players should not – and will not – have to endure such ‘traditional’ understandings of what constitutes appropriate environments for sport.
The RWC 2025 facility legacy programme is designed to reflect and recognise the work undertaken by many clubs, and the success they have had, in promoting and developing the women’s game. KKP’s research showed that clubs that have demonstrated their commitment to the women’s game are spread fairly evenly across the country, making the RFU’s task of equitable legacy investment allocation and programme delivery a little easier.
In delivering a proposed legacy investment process, KKP is delighted to have had the opportunity to work so closely with the RFU Facilities team and S&P Architects, all of whom went out of their way to collaborate and share their own knowledge, experience and expertise. It certainly made our job more straightforward and enjoyable.
As sport and leisure professionals, we are confident that the RWC 2025 legacy is achievable and deliverable, and that it will have a real impact on the game. As rugby fans, we can’t wait for kick-off.
Tim Holdsworth is a senior consultant at KKP.