Global Rise in Rugby Participation Led by Emerging Markets: MasterCard Study
Auckland, 5 April 2011 – Rugby has experienced a solid increase in participation since the last Rugby World Cup, driven in large part by strong growth from emerging markets, according to research commissioned by MasterCard Worldwide.
MasterCard’s study – the Economic Impact Report on Global Rugby: Strategic and Emerging Markets – finds that global participation has increased by 19% since Rugby World Cup in 2007. Rugby is now the sport of choice for more than 5 million men, women and children in over 117 countries.
The research is the third in a series that MasterCard commissioned the Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) to conduct on the economic impact of Rugby globally and associated demographic trends, following the Six Nations and Tri Nations reports released last year. This installment examines Rugby in emerging markets and the development of the Game in non-traditional areas.
In comparison to 2007 figures, emerging nations across the globe are catching up on the traditional playing territories in Europe and Oceania in terms of participants, with growth increasing by 18% in Asia. In Africa and South America significant increases of 33% and 22% respectively have occurred. While participation figures are highest in Europe, non-traditional Rugby playing nations in Eastern Europe have also emerged, contributing to the 22% increase seen across the continent as a whole. The study shows that these unprecedented levels of growth can be attributed to three main factors:
At the micro level, the study shows that while the top ten playing nations in terms of participation in 2008 were the traditional Six Nations and Tri Nations sides plus Argentina1 , this picture is changing, with Japan, Sri Lanka and the US all featuring in the top ten for 2010.
Japan was the top Asian market ranked fifth worldwide with 122,598 registered players ahead of Sri Lanka (103,325), Argentina (102,790), Australia (86,952) and the US (81,678). England (2,549,1962 ), South Africa (632,184) and France (273,084) topped the table for 2010 participation.
Participation in Africa is being driven by a surge in young recruits – more than 80% of the continent’s players are under 20 years old. The report attributes the growth of Rugby in Africa to the high profile of Sevens Rugby – particularly following the success of Kenya - and new development initiatives funded through the IRB’s Strategic Investment Programme.
The report suggests that Rugby is penetrating untapped Asian markets too, including Pakistan, where participation quadrupled over the past two years with an increase of 250% in the last year alone, and Iran, where the sport is now played in 15 out of 30 provinces and where Women’s Rugby thrives.
"Rugby is in a healthy state with participation now spreading through new territories and across demographics in emerging markets. While traditionally Rugby has been concentrated in relatively small pockets, it is widely accepted that the future strength and development of the sport is dependent on achieving a higher level of competitive balance between the developed and emerging rugby nations," said Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of the Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) at Coventry University.
Japan, China, the US: Strategically Important Emerging Rugby Markets
The study finds Asia’s interest in Rugby has been boosted by Japan securing hosting rights for Rugby World Cup 2019 and Rugby Sevens’ status as an Olympic sport from 2016, which is expected to have a huge impact on development across the Region.
Participation in China has grown 13% since 2009, according to the report, but is currently a miniscule 5,430 registered players from a population of 1.3 billion. While 89% of participants are over-20 males, the Chinese women’s Sevens team has been more successful than the men’s team. It is one of the top ranked women’s sides in Asia although it lost to Kazakhstan in finals of the Asian Games. Rugby Sevens has been added to the 2013 Chinese National Games programme and will be included in the national development system aimed at developing elite athletes.
IRB Chairman, Bernard Lapasset, said: "These are extremely exciting times for Rugby with strong growth and participation worldwide. This report, commissioned by MasterCard, underlines that growth is not just continuing, but is accelerating and is as prominent in emerging Rugby markets as traditional Rugby countries.
"The IRB is committed to the development of the Game and through a strong programme of investment, coaching and education funded through the commercial success of Rugby World Cup we are committed to ensuring that more men, women and children can enjoy a sport that brings people together through values of integrity, respect, solidarity."
"We are also noticing the boost that Olympic Games inclusion has given Rugby and we are excited by the opportunities that are now being presented to our Member Unions through National Olympic Committee and as we count down to Rio 2016. We are working in partnership with the IOC and the Olympic family to ensure that Rugby Sevens’ Olympic debut is both memorable and successful."Participation Drives Performance
The study uncovers a strong positive correlation between the number of Rugby participants in a country and its IRB World Ranking, suggesting that there is a close link between the two variables.
According to the report, though a number of other factors are important, if countries are to improve their playing quality they need to increase participation. Additionally, bringing Rugby to areas not traditionally involved will engage athletes who might otherwise be attracted to other sports, or to those who otherwise may have not engaged with physical activity at all. The study shows that while Rugby faces stern competition from other sports and entertainment activities, over the last decade it has managed to harness the renewed enthusiasm for the Game in a number of ways, to become one of the world’s fastest growing sports.
Stuart Cameron, vice president, Sponsorships, Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, MasterCard Worldwide, said: "Our study shows that the hard work done to bring Rugby to new audiences is paying off. It is clear that communities – particularly in Africa and Asia – are buying into what Rugby has to offer. In a Rugby World Cup year, and in preparation for the 2019 tournament in Japan, that is a powerful endorsement of the sport and an indicator of its strong future."
As a leading global payments company, MasterCard Worldwide prides itself on being at the heart of commerce, helping to make life easier and more efficient for everyone, everywhere. MasterCard serves as a franchisor, processor and advisor to the payments industry, and makes commerce happen by providing a critical economic link among financial institutions, governments, businesses, merchants, and cardholders worldwide. In 2010, $2.7 trillion in gross dollar volume was generated on its products by consumers around the world. Powered by the MasterCard Worldwide Network – the fastest payment processing network in the world – MasterCard processes over 23 billion transactions each year, has the capacity to handle 160 million transactions per hour, with an average network response time of 130 milliseconds and with 99.99 percent reliability. MasterCard advances global commerce through its family of brands, including MasterCard®, Maestro®, and Cirrus®; its suite of core products such as credit, debit, and prepaid; and its innovative platforms and functionalities, such as MasterCard PayPass™ and MasterCard inControl™. MasterCard serves consumers, governments, and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more information, please visit us at www.mastercard.com. Follow us on Twitter: @mastercardnews.
MasterCard & Rugby World Cup 2011
MasterCard Worldwide is an Official Worldwide Partner and the official payment system of Rugby World Cup 2011. The company leverages the platform to further deliver shareholder value by creating exclusive business-building opportunities for its customer financial institutions, while building MasterCard brand affinity by offering priceless experiences to MasterCard cardholders. As part of its agreement, MasterCard secures a comprehensive rights and benefits package that allows the company to deliver value to customer financial institutions, merchants and cardholders, including the ability to access "Priceless" experiences linked to Rugby World Cup 2011.
Rugby World Cup is the crown jewel of the sport and a prominent global property – with television coverage of Rugby World Cup 2007 spanning more than 200 territories, reaching a cumulative audience of 4.3 billion viewers. Rugby World Cup 2011 is being held in New Zealand for the first time since the inaugural event in 1987. Teams representing 20 nations will compete in 48 matches across several host cities during September and October. The final and semi-final matches are slated for Auckland’s historic Eden Park, October 22-23, 2011.
Beyond its expertise in world-class sponsorship marketing, MasterCard also has a rich heritage of supporting the sport of Rugby in the host country. MasterCard has been a sponsor of the New Zealand All Blacks team for more than 7 years. MasterCard is also match sponsor to the Barbarian Internationals for 2009-2010.
MasterCard & Sponsorships
MasterCard boasts a diverse portfolio of business-building sponsorship platforms. The brand has expanded its sponsorship strategy to include alliances in lifestyle, entertainment, in addition to a traditional footprint in sports. Today, MasterCard’s sponsorship strategy includes an array of strategic relationships each designed to drive shareholder value, build business for customer financial institutions and provide unique priceless experiences for MasterCard cardholders.
1RFU Strategic Plan 2008
2This number reflects people engaged in rugby activity in England. This figure has not been independently verified by the IRB at the time of going to press.