An initiative created to make Coventry a world leader in rugby is on track as it celebrates its first birthday.
Over the past 12 months more than 60,000 people of all ages in the city and surrounding areas have either participated in or watched a format of rugby-related activity.
The project – called Coventry, a City of Rugby – was set up last April and is a collaboration between key rugby organisations to develop the game at all levels to make it a leading city by 2023 – rugby’s 200th anniversary.
Its key aims include increasing participation, improving rugby facilities, unlocking funding to support clubs and attracting major rugby events to Coventry.
There is also a particular focus on making the game more accessible to women and girls, people with disabilities, and those from non-traditional rugby playing backgrounds.
Tom Clift is Programme Manager of Engage! at Coventry Sports Foundation, which co-ordinates activities on behalf of all City of Rugby partners.
He said: “It’s been a solid first year of this unique partnership across rugby league and union. The response we have had over the past year from all stakeholders, schools, rugby clubs and the local communities has just been great.
“People are engaging in the game at every level of the sport, volunteering, refereeing, playing or coaching, which is exactly what we’re striving for.
“We initially launched City of Rugby to 20,000 people with help from the Coventry Bears, Coventry Rugby and Wasps.
“We have also secured £120,000 of funding from Sport England and O2 Touch, which seen the introduced of four new O2 touch centres across the city and has helped Coventry Bears develop a new format of the game, Bears 5s, running weekly Bears 5s rugby sessions for around 1,800 children and adults.
“Last summer we also saw 1,634 participants gave the sport a go during Coventry Sports Week and we are on target to reach over 10,000 school children, who have taken part in numerous community rugby related programmes via Engage!, Coventry Rugby, Wasps or Coventry Bears.
“That interest has also filtered through into the mainstream. More than 21,000 people packed into the Ricoh Arena to watch a rugby league Four Nations double header, and Premiership Rugby brought their Singha 7s finals to the city which was watched by nearly 9,000 people.
“We have got off to a good start, and the aim for the next 12 months will be to spread the game and its core values of teamwork, respect, integrity, enjoyment and discipline to more families across the city.”