Rugby Football Union

About Rugby Football Union (RFU)

The Rugby Football Union is the national governing body for grassroots and elite rugby in England, with 2,000 autonomous rugby clubs in its membership.

The clubs are grouped within 35 Constituent Bodies (CBs), comprised of counties – some individual, some combined – the three armed forces, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, England Rugby Football Schools' Union and England Students.

All of this is supported by the RFU's 50 Rugby Development Officers, six Area Managers and 120 Community Rugby Coaches across the country, who provide some 30,000 coaching sessions a year for young people.

The RFU employs approximately 500 paid staff and helps to train and support more than 60,000 volunteers

Client: Rugby Football Union

Sector: Sport

Overview: ‘Leadership in Union’ program for RFU consulting bodies.

The Challenge

  • Underinvestment in voluntary leaders running the suport at county level
  • Pressure on volunteers resulting in fatigue and burnout
  • Lack of opportunity for constituent bodies (CBs) to maximize potential of the organization
  • Transformation of leadership support at CB level required.
Steve Grainger

“CBs have a clear remit. By managing the game in an efficient and effective manner, with a planning process that both manages the present and plans for the future,CBs can support clubs to deliver activity that meets their needs and ensure that all planning and decision making is transparent and understood by all”

Steve Grainger

Rugby Development Director, RFU

The Solution

The RFU engaged Ashridge Executive Education to partner with them on the transformational journey – alongside CB leaders – to design and deliver a custom program that would reflect the complexities of local sports administration and governance, while incorporating the unique context of rugby union, and meeting the development needs of CB leaders.

The program had two key priorities:

  • a leadership development experience to harness existing skills
  • an opportunity to address obstacles to success.

The program’s goal was to ensure that personal skills and attributes were maximized, and the volunteers were better able to apply their enhanced leadership skills within both their RFU roles and that of their professional careers.

Specifically, this meant exploring factors such as internal politics, managing change and impact on others, and offering CB leaders the opportunity for deep self-reflection.

The Impact

To date, a number of significant program outputs evidence the success of the investment, namely participating CB leaders being:

  • More focused, strategic and confident in their leadership.

  • Better connected and working collaboratively through the creation of a thriving, independent network of CB leaders

  • Better able to over-come challenges, demonstrate resilience and drive forward action plans.

  • Much more influential, vocal and engaged at both a local and national level.

By investing in current and future CB leaders, the RFU is not only making the ambition of growing rugby and strengthening each local rugby club a reality, it is also laying important the foundation work for achieving many of the RFU's strategic priorities in its new Strategic Plan for 2017-21.

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