The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has committed itself to overhauling rugby with an eight-year strategic plan to reinvigorate the sport’s image and make it more accessible, with the key objective of winning the World Cup in 2007.
The RFU plan, “Putting England First”, promises to invest £50m in developing world-class players and £155m on grass-roots rugby. There will also be £1m Lottery funding for local authorities to develop the game.
The RFU plans to exploit the England brand through e-commerce development, a TV production and travel company, the expansion of merchandising by taking the Rugby Store onto high streets across the country and by developing a leisure complex at its Twickenham stadium.
RFU commercial director Paul Vaughan says: “The team is performing well and playing an attractive game. We have to exploit that. We need to modernise the image of the game to make it more open and accessible – especially at grass-roots level.
“Rugby has about 9 million supporters. We are the next biggest group after football.”
– The BBC is set to secure the TV rights to England’s autumn home rugby internationals from BSkyB. The deal was worth £87.5m three years ago.