As rugby has evolved and expanded into the modern global sport it is today, the core character-building values – discipline, integrity, passion, solidarity and respect - have remained consistent since the game’s inception in 1823.
These character-building values underpin World Rugby’s vision as a sport for all, true to its values. This vision reflects the principle that rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes and is echoed in our stated mission to grow the global rugby family.
Rugby as a sport for all is enshrined in the governance of the game and its administration, including the World Rugby Playing Charter, Bye Laws and Regulations:
“The laws provide players of different physiques, skills, genders and ages with the opportunity to participate at their levels of ability in a controlled, competitive and enjoyable environment … It is through discipline, control and mutual respect that the spirit of the game flourishes … these are the qualities which forge the fellowship and sense of fair play so essential to the game’s ongoing success and survival” - World Rugby Playing Charter
“To prevent discrimination of any kind against a country, or against a private person or groups of people including on account of age, gender, marital status, maternity status, disability, race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin), religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation or any other reason.” - Objectives and Functions of World Rugby, Bye-Law 3
“All Unions, Associations, Rugby Bodies, Clubs and Persons ... shall not do anything which is likely to intimidate, offend, insult, humiliate or discriminate against any other Person on the ground of their religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, colour or national or ethnic origin” - World Rugby Regulation 18
Ensuring rugby remains a sport for all is also compatible with many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including:
- Good Health and Well-Being (Goal 3)
- Quality Education (Goal 4)
- Gender Equality (Goal 5)
- Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10)
- Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11)
- Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (Goal 16)
- Partnerships for the Goals (Goal 17)
It is impossible to consider rugby a sport for all without focusing on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Where barriers to entry or unconscious bias exist, even if unintentional, then the sport is no longer for all and runs the risk of becoming not only homogenized but viewed as exclusive and even discriminatory.
As such, World Rugby in partnership with its regions and unions have a vital role to play in ensuring that the sport remains open, safe from discrimination and attractive to all, be they players, coaches, officials, fans or others involved in the game from community to elite level.
A strong team with many players of many talents
At some point, many will have had first-hand experience of rejection - not being picked for a team, refused entry or not being accepted into a group. For most these memories are nothing more than growing pains from which people move on from yet for many, being left out does not always start and finish in the playground but continues with them through life.
Discrimination is often an unconscious reflex but, intentionally or otherwise, it can also be built into policies, procedures and attitudes. Understanding who may be exposed to discrimination, what forms it can take and the root causes can all be used to address and prevent any negative actions and ensure that as society and attitudes continue to evolve, rugby remains a sport for all.
In doing so, the benefits of inclusion and diversity to our sport are many:
- Personal well-being through open participation and acceptance
- Greater understanding and awareness of all backgrounds
- Opportunity to increase player, coach, official and fan bases
- Improved knowledge share, leadership and learning from others
- Enhanced appeal to partners from other sectors with an affinity to rugby
- Increased commercial attractiveness and investment through broadened audiences
Inclusion in rugby
Implicit in our values and approach to player welfare to protect players of all shapes and sizes, inclusion is and must remain a natural part of what we do, not just to grow the game but to preserve the values of rugby.
World Rugby believes that everyone should have the opportunity to play the game or be a part of rugby regardless of their national, racial or ethnic origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, language, religion, politics or any other reason.
We see this integration of diversity across the world and at all levels of the games, week-in, week-out, manifesting itself through competitiveness, friendship and respect, irrespective of background:
- Respect for kickers, injured players, cultural challenges and remembering the greats of the game no longer with us
- Helping opposition players off the ground and back onto their feet
- Allowing match officials to do their job free from abuse or intimidation
- Players and fans clapping the opposition and shaking hands with each other at the end of the game, whatever the outcome
- Team and match official dinners, touring visits, mixed teams and mixed seating for fans
Indeed, rugby’s strength is in its behaviours, but we know that this respect has been earned thanks to the efforts of previous generations. It is now the role of those involved in the game today to preserve these behaviours and reinforce the values in a changing world with competing interests and newcomers to the sport who may not fully understand or appreciate what it means to be a part of the game.
What is World Rugby doing?
Along with reinforcing inclusion and taking a firm-stand against discrimination of any type as referenced above in the Playing Charter, Bye Laws and Regulations, World Rugby works at a variety of levels to emphasise the importance of diversity, strengthen our ties with partners working towards greater inclusion, and promotes inspiring stories from around the world:
- Player Welfare policies and guidelines to promote inclusion (including mixed gender rugby, colour blindness)
- Training and Education materials to reinforce rugby’s spirit and values as captured in the Playing Charter
- Governance reforms and resources to promote gender equity and representation
- Closer cooperation and agreements with partners such as the World Wheelchair Rugby and International Gay Rugby
- Communicating messages of inclusion, diversity and respect to and from rugby fans using social media to reach a global and connected audience through #MyRugbyMoment and #RugbyBuildsCharacter e.g. coverage of Kashmiri girls playing rugby in the snow, LGBT Pride festival, wheelchair rugby athletes, social inclusion projects in deprived communities
World Rugby member unions and regional associations are also actively running and promoting inclusion and diversity initiatives, for example:
- In Argentina, a prisons rugby programme is supporting prisoner health and rehabilitation
- Australia Rugby’s programmes to support and engage indigenous communities
- England Rugby have comprehensive information available on their inclusion strategy
- France Rugby have information and resources available on social cohesion
- New Zealand Rugby’s work to ensure LGBT inclusion in rugby at all levels
- Scottish Rugby support for mixed ability/ unified rugby
- Asia Rugby supports integrated life skills and rugby curriculum across disadvantaged communities in Asia
- Oceania Rugby’s partnership with UN Women to promote gender equality
What are others doing?
A range of other organisations have produced a variety of multi-language resources and tools to challenge stereotypes and keep discrimination out of sport, including:
- The International Olympic Committee promotes equality, diversity and inclusion and addresses harassment and sexual abuse in sport
- Rainbow Tick certifies organisations that complete a Diversity & Inclusion process
- Play by the Rules provides information, resources, tools and free online training to sport stakeholders to prevent and deal with discrimination, harassment, child safety, inclusion and integrity issues in sport
What can you do?
Only through all stakeholders working together can we ensure rugby’s proud tradition as a sport for all is preserved and our collective ambition to grow the global game is realised. Like all great teams, there is a role for everyone and below are just some examples of how you can support inclusion, diversity and #RugbyForAll:
For players, coaches, officials and fans:
- Think of examples of inclusion you have witnessed – how can you replicate and share these?
- Think of discrimination you may have seen – what could you do to address it and prevent future occurrences?
- How diverse is your team, club, school, circle of friends, community, workplace? Is anyone excluded?
- What challenges or obstacles exist in creating an inclusive environment?
For administrators and stakeholder organisations, further work could incorporate the following:
- Examine current policies and procedures - are they inclusive? What needs to change?
- Think of your experiences of leadership – was it one voice or many? How diverse are your leaders? Are they open to new ideas?
- Is there a culture of openness and willingness to embrace change?
- How can you implement a more inclusive culture in your activities?