Ulster Rugby unveils ‘game-changing’ Participation Review

Following consultation with nearly 900 amateur players from across the province, Ulster Rugby has released the findings and recommendations from its most in-depth survey to date around participation in the domestic game.

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Commissioned by the province’s Rugby Committee in December 2019, a Participation Review group, comprising of stakeholders from across the sport, was formed with the mission of refreshing and reinvigorating the game of rugby in Ulster.

Through the work of the Review group, Ulster Rugby set out to identify the barriers that exist to participation, and in partnership with its clubs and players, make recommendations for how these could be addressed going forward.

Activities carried out included the formation of focus groups, club consultation and research – with 891 female and male adult players completing an online questionnaire from January through to March 2020.

Greg Irwin, Honorary Competitions Secretary for Ulster Rugby, said:

Today is an important milestone for the future of amateur rugby in Ulster. It marks the culmination of a year-long project, led by the Participation Review group, to plan for the future of our domestic game in the province by talking to those that matter most – our players.  

“We have also taken the opportunity to speak to all of those that make local rugby possible – including coaches, club volunteers and administrators through focus groups and workshops.

“The Review group has been delighted by the engagement with our players. We have learned much from players about the specific challenges which they are facing, especially when it comes to transitioning from the age-grade to the adult game.

“We have set out a series of ambitious recommendations that will address barriers to participation and meet the needs of today and tomorrow’s players.”

The Review, which is available to read here, sets out a number of key recommendations developed to improve the domestic game for men and women across Ulster, which include:

  • The review of competition structures to better reflect player, team, and club needs.
  • Development of structures for young players to play with their peers – to promote age-grade to adult transition.
  • Support the demand for a wider variety of club-based activities throughout the week.

Barry Willis, Rugby Operations Manager at Ulster Rugby, added:

It’s well documented and widely acknowledged that there are many barriers to participation in sport nowadays, which is not unique to our sport or our province.

However, we wanted to hear directly from our players about the specific challenges which they are facing, especially when it comes to transitioning from the age-grade to adult game, and collectively come up with recommendations to be implemented by Ulster Rugby across the province in the weeks and months ahead.”

As well as identifying the recommendations that Ulster Rugby can make, as the governing body for the sport in the province, a critical part of the Review is the communication and engagement with our players and key stakeholders around the findings, implementation planning, and setting out what success will look like.

In addition to the Review being sent directly to our players and stakeholders, we will continue to draw out key findings from the Review across our platforms, and through direct engagement with our clubs, schools and committees.

We want our players to hold us accountable to the game-changing recommendations that this landmark survey has identified, and I look forward to what this next chapter for the domestic game holds, as it’s set to be an exciting and pivotal one.”

View the full Ulster Rugby Participation Review Report here.


Leanne is the editor in chief of BELFAST.CO.UK.