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'No barriers': RFU provides update on inclusivity and diversity target

NEWS: The Rugby Football Union (RFU) revealed that they are well on par with reaching their Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) Action Plan.


The RFU launched the plan of action in 2021, with the objective of building a sport that better reflects their society.

The plan was based on research conducted in 2020, from which the union committed to improving inclusion and diversity within the game, and focussed on four areas; game play, game leadership, fans, followers and partners and, employees and board.

The plan focuses on understanding people’s experiences in the game, creating awareness of the cultural change required and the opportunities that exist, gaining insights from which to build targeted interventions designed to improve and evolve the game of rugby union in England and delivering education and training.

The full I&D action plan will run between 2021-25.

On Wednesday, RFU provided a mid-term report covering a period up to the end of the 2022-23 season.

In the report, RFU revealed that after two years there has been more diverse leadership with 42 percent women (currently at 50 percent) and 17 percent ethnically diverse board members, 41 percent females (up from 38 percent) and 9 percent (up from 4 percent) ethnically diverse executive and leadership team members.


Fan interest share rise from 32 percent to 37 percent amongst low socio-economic groups, as well as incremental rises amongst women and girls and ethnically diverse communities.

The plan also saw the launch of Rugby United which engage young black and South Asian communities with the aim to sustain a long-term involvement in rugby. The programme aims to have 10,000 people involved over time.

Commenting on the work, RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said: “Inclusivity is critical to our purpose, our strategic objectives and is at the heart of building a successful and thriving game across England that is open to all.​

“It is the thread that runs through our values, both for those who enjoy our game already, and those we are taking the game to. ​


“It speaks to the culture we are striving to build, and our ability to foster diversity throughout the game, which in turn will help futureproof rugby union in England.

“This impact report reflects on our Inclusion and Diversity Action Plan’s initial two years so that we can reflect and continue to make progress. We have achieved a lot in a short period of time but there is plenty more that we intend to do and that needs to be done.

“We must ensure that there are no barriers to people being welcomed into our sport, that those who play the game today are having a positive and inclusive experience, and that their voices are being heard.”

*READ the full list of what RFU have accomplished:

– Gained valuable insight to provide a benchmark and information for action, via our community I&D survey, first launched in 2021. Combined, we have had almost 10,000 responses since its inception.
– Appointed 30 I&D leads across our Constituent Bodies ensuring a network of volunteers with an interest in I&D to support two-way communication between the RFU and the game.
– Co-opted five new members onto Council as part of the process to widen the inclusion and diversity of Council.
– Used the findings of elite game research into racism and classism and the impact of Luther Burrell’s experiences to focus and accelerate work that was already underway, to listen to the experiences of those in all elite rugby clubs and to agree an action plan, launched in April 2023, driven collaboratively by RFU, PRL, PWR and RPA. Two elite game I&D surveys have been launched, providing insights from over 1,000 individuals, providing us with a baseline of the experiences of inclusion and discrimination in the game.
– Developed education for a wide range of audiences including the community game explaining the forms of discrimination that exist, their impact and ways they manifest themselves in our game. Developed and rolled out active bystander training to build confidence and de-normalise poor and abusive language and actions to clubs, Constituent Bodies, RFU staff, Council and senior England teams. In addition, bespoke rugby programmes focussed on behavioural change have been designed.



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