Sport England chief commends rugby, netball and cricket governing bodies
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Sport England chief commends rugby, netball and cricket governing bodies

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Sport England has praised the governing bodies of rugby union, netball and cricket for their insight work after all three saw substantial boosts in participation.

Cricket grew its number of participants by 32 per cent year-on-year to 179,700, netball surged by 9 per cent to 164,100, while rugby union increased its number of players to 196,900, representing a 13 per cent increase.

While the latter had the “unprecedented” effect of hosting last year’s Rugby World Cup, with extensive national interest, Sport England chief executive Jennie Price was quick to highlight the work done by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to bring people into the game with a long-term focus.

“Steve Grainger, the RFU development director, really understands the principles of insight driven delivery,” Price told Sports Management. “The RFU spent a lot of time working out what people might want from rugby, and they used initiatives around the World Cup to provide that.”

Price pointed to the RFU’s emphasis on getting older players back into the game, spending money on insight-driven advertising and putting on special sessions as the foundation for the growth.

Netball, said Price, was also doing sophisticated work in terms of insight. She referenced the sport’s Back to Netball initiative – which brings former players back into the game – and the research behind it as one of the reasons for the strong growth in netball players aged over 26.

The England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Get the Game on scheme was lauded by the Sport England boss for its innovative concept for the flexible way it approaches club games even when teams can’t field full sides.

Price commented that the ECB has become “more insight-driven generally” over the past two or three years, and that clubs were “more relaxed”, facilitating the participation growth it has experienced over the last 12 months.

Last month the quango published its new five-year strategy, which revealed that core money for national governing bodies (NGBs) would shrink from 38 per cent to 29 per cent of its total budget, although forward-thinking NGBs may be able to bid from other pots of money if they can produce outcomes consistent with the government’s sport strategy, such as mental and physical health improvement, social cohesion and positive economic output.

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Sport England has praised the governing bodies of rugby union, netball and cricket for their insight work after all three saw substantial boosts in participation.
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