The Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson and Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty today launched a new initiative for club rugby in England that will enhance the crucial role it plays in the community.
The two men came together to launch Premiership Rugby's largest ever community campaign after an extensive strategic review designed to boost the professional game and its social impact ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 and rugby's inclusion in the Olympic Games in Brazil a year later.
The newly created campaigns will see all of Premiership Rugby's work in the community fall under two new banners – Play and BreakThru. This announcement follows the restructuring of Premiership Rugby's previous community work.
As a result of this change, Premiership Rugby will be able to devote more resources to its goal of making a positive difference to individuals and communities in England and across the world.
Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson said: "Sport has an incredible power to help change lives for the better. Premiership Rugby's community work has already transformed the lives of thousands of young people in some of the most deprived areas of the country. The goal of the Play and Breakthru campaigns is not just about participation but also social change and Premiership Rugby are using the sport as an effective hook to do this.
"London 2012's International Inspiration programme showed the impact that dedicated sports corporate social responsibility programmes can have across the world and it's fantastic that Premiership Rugby are also expanding their programmes overseas."
The Play campaign aims to support the growth of the game by creating opportunities to Participate, Develop and Excel in rugby union.
Within the Play campaign, Premiership Rugby will run a number of exciting initiatives including the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme, Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup and The J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Cup.
Mark McCafferty said of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme: "By the end of next season Aviva will have invested £2 million into this initiative, which introduces more than 39,000 young people each season to rugby union through tag rugby, creating a vibrant and effective rugby legacy in England.
"The scheme targets new-to-rugby, non-traditional rugby schools. It provides five weeks of coaching and teacher training, grassroots club links, plus resources for the school to continue to play rugby in the future.
"Rugby Union is entering a golden era for club and international rugby in England. The rugby world will focus its attention on a Rugby World Cup in England in 2015. In addition, the admission of Rugby Sevens into the 2016 Olympics has, in many countries, increased the profile and potential of the sport. That has consequently boosted the motivation and resources available to build on the established fan base, grow rugby to the next level and bring the sport to a new global audience."
Complementing the Play campaign is the BreakThru campaign which will drive social change and sustainable health and education benefits through rugby union.
This campaign encompasses a number of different programmes including the award-winning HITZ programme and Tackling Numbers, a numeracy initiative for young children which uses rugby union.
Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson said: "Programmes such as HITZ link up professional rugby clubs with young people in their local communities, with coaches not only helping young people enjoy the game but also acting as a mentor to them. It helps young people challenge their physical and mental approach to life, encouraging them to take steps into further education, apprenticeships and employment with training."
Both the Play and BreakThru campaigns will also support disadvantaged communities around the world. Premiership Rugby in partnership with the British Council and SESI in Brazil is currently running an innovative rugby programme, Try Rugby SP, in the South American country which incorporates Play and BreakThru elements.
"Its Play elements support Brazil's efforts to develop and raise the profile of rugby in the country ahead of the sport being introduced to the Olympics for the first time in Rio in 2016," Mark McCafferty added.
"Through BreakThru this innovative programme uses the ethos of rugby alongside the infrastructure and expertise of each partner to deploy Premiership Rugby's world-class development staff into disadvantaged Brazilian communities to engage with children and young people to deliver health, education and social outcomes.
"Through the Play and BreakThru campaigns we are creating more ways for private, public and third sector organisations to use the power of Premiership Rugby's brands and our community infrastructure and will be looking to engage and partner with organisations that share our vision to extend the reach and impact of the campaigns."