Sport as a tool for good
The power and influence of sport to act as a catalyst for peace and development has long been understood.
In a rugby context, players and fans show respect and friendship for each other on and off the pitch while the iconic images of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar celebrating South Africa’s victory in the Rugby World Cup in 1995 clearly illustrated how sport can play an important role as a unifying force.
The significance of sport as a tool to improve society has also been formally acknowledged by the United Nations which, in its resolution adopting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, recognised the growing contribution of sport to the effort involved in achieving these goals:
As an international federation and Olympic sport, World Rugby recognises this power of sport to act as a catalyst for peace and societal development. Along with the global rugby family, we have a shared responsibility to use rugby to improve lives and communities.
This task is made easier thanks to a collective desire that exists across all levels of rugby to reach out and support positive development opportunities, a desire that is fuelled by rugby’s character-building values – this is the spirit of rugby.
"Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognise the growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives."
Rugby’s role – the Spirit of Rugby
To help harness this spirit, between 2016-2020 World Rugby implemented its Spirit of Rugby programme, a development initiative which recognised World Rugby’s role and the attraction of rugby to organisations wishing to use it to drive sport for good projects, inviting them to submit proposals for collaboration on development projects.
The Spirit of Rugby programme connected with the World Rugby mission to grow the global rugby family and vision of rugby being a sport for all, true to its values - discipline, respect, integrity, passion and solidarity.
In collaboration with selected partners and stakeholders, the Spirit of Rugby programme promoted and supported the delivery of meaningful projects across identified key themes relating to sport for development - social inclusion, gender equity, health, education, environmental sustainability and sport for all.
These themes and associated projects can be directly linked to the core rugby values, for example:
- Integrity - education and outreach programmes around anti-corruption, anti-doping etc.
- Respect - adopting positive environmental measures around activities/ events
- Solidarity - development projects focussing on social inclusion and equality through rugby
- Passion - develop new passion for the game through Get Into Rugby/sport for all activations
- Discipline - promote player welfare and rugby as part of a healthy lifestyle
World Rugby invited project submissions from interested organisations with the following profile:
- Non-political, non-religious organisations
- Registered charities/not-for-profit organisations providing up-to-date audited accounts
- Organisations with an international focus
- Organisations using rugby as a catalyst for development in collaboration with World Rugby regions and members
The scope of project proposals included:
- Activities across appropriate themes including social inclusion, gender equity, peace building, health, education, environmental sustainability and rugby for all
- Duration of between 12 to 24 months
- Sustainable, scalable projects delivering measurable return on investment
Organisations wishing to partner with World Rugby within the Spirit of Rugby framework were invited to download and review the Spirit of Rugby Guide and Application. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD
While the programme has now closed, World Rugby is pleased to have supported the following Spirit of Rugby partner organisations:
- Bhubesi Pride Foundation
- Khelo Rugby
- Rugby Opens Borders
- Rugby United
- SOS Kit Aid
- Rio Rugby FC
- Terres en Mêlées
- Trust Rugby International
Alongside the Spirit of Rugby partners, World Rugby has also worked closely with a range of other stakeholders to promote and deliver sustainable and inclusive rugby for development initiatives, including the International Olympic Committee, United Nations World Food Programme, ChildFund Rugby, Peace and Sport, World Wheelchair Rugby International Gay Rugby and sportanddev.org among others.