The RFU today launched its eight year Strategic Plan entitled ‘Putting England First’. The Plan builds on England’s current status as the world’s largest rugby playing nation and details a series of key objectives and investment initiatives to enable England to win 2007 Rugby World Cup.

The RFU promises a huge investment in the game over the next eight years, including £50 million towards a World Class Performance Plan – the most comprehensive high-performance player development programme in the world.

The plan also announces several initiatives to strengthen the Community game including £155 million investment in grass roots. In addition, lottery funding of nearly £1 million is to be injected into local authorities, in conjunction with Sport England.

Francis Baron, Chief Executive of the RFU, commented, ‘We are delighted to be able to announce this substantial plan that aims to stabilise the game at all levels. Recent successes in the Autumn Internationals and Six Nations has placed England near the very top of world class rugby and this strategic plan will ensure this success is built upon for the benefit of all participants.

Commercially, the RFU’s objective is to manage the Union to PLC standards maximising the RFU’s commercial experience. This will provide the investment resource necessary to achieve the overall aspirations for the game.

Francis Baron continues, ‘Commercial success is planned to be achieved by a series of diversification strategies, such as the creation of a Twickenham TV production company, Twickenham travel company and additional High Street retail brands.’

‘Putting England First’



‘To promote and govern rugby union in England through the creation of stable structures for the game that enable its successful development at all levels for the benefit of all its participants’

The RFU Eight Year Strategic Plan sets out a long-term vision for rugby in England covering all elements of the game. It is a plan that the game can unite around and forge ahead together.

The Plan sets 32 objectives to grow and develop the game and to enable England to be in a position to win the 2007 World Cup. It concentrates on three core areas of the English rugby game: Elite (international and Premier club levels); Community (grass roots and youth development); and Business/Administration (creation and management of income).

Highlights include:-

  • £155 million capital fund for investment in the community and grass roots game
  • £50 million investment in the World Class Performance Plan
  • Minimum of 50% distribution of profits to member clubs
  • Advent of a prosperous, self-financing Elite club game
  • Cultivation of rugby as a participatory, spectator and grass roots sport.
  • The RFU’s profits, cash reserves and net worth are projected to almost double by 2007/08 providing the financial fire power to achieve the objectives. This will be achieved through growing current income streams and generating new revenue streams in the following areas:

  • Broadcast production, distribution and rights sales
  • Exploitation of new media rights
  • Travel & leisure developments
  • Better utilisation of the Twickenham stadium
  • This will sustain and grow the game enabling the RFU to re-distribute 50% of post-tax profits.

    Elite Objectives

    ‘To be world leaders through excellence in every aspect of the elite game.’

    As the current Lloyds TSB Six Nations Champions, the England team was undefeated in the 2000 Investec Autumn Internationals, and has secured good victories against Wales, Italy and Scotland in the 2001 Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championships, giving England seven straight wins.

    Building on this position, the RFU has defined the following set of realistic objectives for the England team:-

  • to win four out of the next eight Grand Slams
  • to achieve six out of eight Six Nations championships
  • to be successful in two out of three matches against SANZAR nations
  • to be semi-finalists in the 2003 RWC
  • to win the 2007 RWC
  • To ensure the continued development of emerging players, resources will also
    be focussed on:-

  • winning the U19 FIRA tournament by 2002,
  • winning the U21 SANZAR tournament by 2003
  • These will serve as feeder objectives to winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

    These goals will be supported by a pipeline of Elite coaches and the creation of 12 Academies of Excellence. The appointment of Performance Director Chris Spice is a key component of this strategy and he will report directly to the Chief Executive.

    The World Class Performance Plan allows for the identification, development and support of players through to the World Cup 2007. This equates to an outlay of £50m – the most comprehensive and systematic high performance player development programme in the world.

    Since the inception of professionalism, the RFU has been partially funding the Elite clubs. However it is planned that all RFU grant funding of the Elite game will cease at the end of 2001/2. Further, the implementation of the Long Form Agreement with EFDR will establish a revised elite competition, with a 12 team Premier League that will become self-financing by 2002/3. This will ensure stable, viable competition structures and enable increased investment in the grass roots game. The total investment in Elite rugby over the Plan will be £64m.

    Community Objectives

    ‘To promote and develop the game within the community so as to encourage
    optimum participation and enjoyment at every level’

    The RFU’s Community strategy is grounded in the reality of current socio-economic and sporting trends, notably:

  • declining proportion of the male population in the 16-24 year age range
  • diversification of sports and the growth of ‘new wave’ sports
  • proliferation of fitness/health clubs to challenge the ‘club house’.
  • The RFU has commissioned its own extensive research that highlights the need to address key issues such as:-

  • the decline in the number of teams and participants in England
  • the fall in the number of RFU affiliated clubs and schools in the last four years as recorded by the RFU registrar.

    By targeting a potential market of 6.6m people, the RFU plans to increase participation and improve attendances at matches. The plan will also broaden the appeal of the game recognising the current bias towards the ABC1 31-54 demographic and the regional concentration in the South and South West. This will be addressed by targeting teenagers and areas more traditionally associated with rugby league.

    In terms of specifics, the RFU has a series of initiatives to strengthen the Community game and improve player retention and recruitment, including:

  • Target 2001 as ‘Club Recruitment year’
  • Create and utilise rugby role models to make rugby more appealing
  • Undertake quarterly monitoring of the Community game and produce an Annual Community Rugby Report
  • Distribute a best practice Recruitment & Retention handbook to all grass roots clubs
  • Implement a National Facilities Strategy to develop and improve rugby facilities
  • Cultivate Rugby ‘Lite’ initiatives and lead the development of casual forms of rugby such as Touch, Tag, Beach and Pub rugby
  • Create rapid response units for struggling clubs
  • Produce a centrally administered player register
  • It is necessary to implement investment based funding at all levels of the Community game. In conjunction with Sport England, Lottery funding will allow a total of nearly £1 million to be directed to the employment of 45 Youth Development Officers in local authorities.

    The total investment in Community rugby over the Plan will be £104m (excluding the capital fund).

    The RFU is also undertaking a series of roadshows, beginning on March 19th in Worcester, to communicate the Strategic Plan’s commitment to the grass roots game.

    Business Objectives

    ‘To be commercially and financially the strongest Union in the world to provide the investment resource necessary to achieve our aspirations for the game.’

    The RFU reported annual profits of £14.5m last November, and it is imperative that a strong professional management team is in place to enable English Rugby to maximise its potential. Paul Vaughan has recently joined the Senior Team as Commercial Director from sports marketing firm Octagon.

    This firm footing will be developed by the following aims and principles:-

  • the target level on return on capital invested (defined as the ratio of PBIT to NCE) should be 25%.
  • the RFU should be managed to PLC standards.
  • These following potential revenue streams would require an estimated capital outlay of £86m:-

  • The creation of a Twickenham TV production company
  • Creation of a Twickenham travel company
  • Online/e-commerce developments
  • Expansion of merchandising possibly taking The Rugby Store into the High Street
  • Development of southern end of the stadium to include a leisure complex
  • The current negotiations between the RFU, EFDR and five major broadcasters for the right to broadcast Autumn Internationals and other non-Six Nation England matches are near conclusion. A significant proportion of the money from the deal will go back into the grass roots of the game, to fund the community programme outlined above. A substantial increase from the previous £87.5m deal is anticipated.

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    RFU Media Office: Tel: 0208 831 6513/6514/6558/6626