England Rugby development director Steve Grainger has hailed the involvement of Richmond upon Thames College in a groundbreaking national programme that is smashing participation figures up and down the country.
England Rugby’s O2 Touch programme has successfully reached and surpassed its target set out with Sport England of introducing 15,000 registered players to the game by the summer of 2017 – with Richmond upon Thames College now one of 321 centres nationwide making touch rugby accessible to all.
The programme was initially introduced in 2013 in the hope of attracting non-playing 18 to 30-year-olds as well as retired players to the sport and the results have been spectacular.
“O2 Touch is one of England Rugby’s key legacy programmes and we are delighted to be celebrating this milestone, hitting our participation targets a year ahead of schedule,” said Grainger, speaking about the project which is aiming to breakdown common barriers to participation, by creating an offering that is played by men and women of all levels.
“The programme has gone from strength to strength and the Rugby World Cup has had a positive impact on its growth rate.
“Through an innovative approach O2 Touch has been able to attract and retain a new playing audience and deliver a lasting legacy for the game.”
O2 Touch has seen unprecedented growth since Rugby World Cup 2015 with an increase of 5,774 players and 51 new O2 Touch centres established.
Since its inception in 2013 the programme has also grown a volunteer base of over 1,000 O2 Touch ambassadors and operators to help run and deliver the programme.
Grainger added: “By working collaboratively with England Rugby partner O2, we have been able to reach new audiences, create new playing opportunities and crucially attract new players to the sport.
“We have done this through exciting initiatives such as the O2 Touch Tour, which was a huge success last year.
“Additional support from Sport England has been fantastic, enabling us to broaden the O2 Touch programme and make it into the success story it is today for the Union.”