World Rugby considers forum recommendations to attract next generation of fans

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World Rugby is looking to drive the entertainment value of its properties to attract a new generation of fans. 

The governing body’s Shape of the Game forum in London has agreed upon recommendations to reimagine the spectacle, while also growing rugby’s place on the global stage. The game has already seen the expansion of the Rugby World Cups, and is set to introduce new men’s and women’s global calendars from 2026, with new competitions such as the Nations Championship.

Playing, coaching, officiating, competitions and fan experts represented five specialist committees at the forum – men’s and women’s high performance, professional game, professional leagues and community rugby.

The group agreed on a number of key actions for World Rugby to explore in collaboration with key stakeholders.

Recommendations centred around the speed and flow of the game, while others focused on language and presentation of the sport. The group advised that there needed to be further developments on how rugby is marketed, focusing on the moments in the game that really engage fans.

“Shape of the Game 2024 represents an important milestone in defining the future of our sport,” said World Rugby chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont.

“It is born from a need and opportunity to grow rugby’s audience by considering how the on-field product and off-field experience can cement long-term growth within a new calendar that delivers long-term certainty of exciting content from expanded Rugby World Cups to new global competitions.

“It is fantastic to see such a strong desire from all stakeholders – players, coaches, match officials, competition owners, unions and regions – to evolve the game to set us up for success, not just at the elite level, but at the community game. I would like to thank everyone for their forward-thinking and collaborative contributions.”

The committees also agreed that there needed to be a dedicated focus on the women’s game and adapting laws, recognising the unique characteristics and opportunities to attract a new audience.

Elsewhere, it was recommended that there needed to be a player-driven approach to advances in welfare, and the streamlining of the sport’s disciplinary and sanctioning processes.

World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin added: “Rugby is in an attention economy. The attractiveness of the product in all its forms, combined with the excitement of the event experience, the content we create and stories we tell, is central to the sport’s growth as a whole.

“We will not look at actions or law tweaks in isolation, rather consider the changes we should make to definitively move the needle to make the game more relevant, attract new fans and deepen engagement with existing fans, and simplify the sport to make it more accessible.”

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