Scottish Rugby's development team has completed its first test of taking rugby to the streets of Scotland at St Aiden’s school in Glasgow’s east-end. Utilising a portion of the £1.4million 'Cashback for Communities’ funding from the Scottish government, Scottish Rugby has created an easy to play and portable version of the game to engage with young people in their neighbourhoods. Young people aged between 10 and 19 have been taking part in the pilots geared towards having fun with rugby for the past eight weeks in key locations across Scotland.
Non-contact forms of rugby and basic passing and running drills have been the main focus while the more ambitious of the participants were introduced to the basic elements of the contact game.
Street Rugby aims to provide free rugby coaching and playing activities for a total of 12,000 youngsters by 2011.
Colin Thomson, Scottish Rugby’s head of community rugby, said: "We believe that Street Rugby can play a major role in helping young Scots to become healthier, safer and stronger while increasing the opportunities for young Scots to play rugby - especially those in disadvantaged areas.
“We want to be the fastest growing sport in Scotland and we’ve set out our targets in our five year plan to have an extra 11,000 regular players by 2012. We can link this activity to schools and local rugby clubs through out nationwide network of jointly funded development officers.
“These development officers will offer rugby to young people in primary and secondary schools, especially those schools where there’s little chance to play rugby just now, creating local rugby centres for disadvantaged and disengaged youngsters."
Working in conjunction with local Police, Street Rugby will be targeted at lesser advantaged areas where crime and anti-social behaviour are high in a bid to offer a healthy alternative at these key times.
Scotland prop Allan Jacobsen, who hails from Prestonpans, also endorsed the project. “I was a bit of a lad when I was younger and rugby’s given me opportunities that I could never have dreamed of back then. It’ll be great if teenagers throughout Scotland can get the sort of chances I got through rugby.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, added: “The Scottish Government wants to give our young people positive things to do with their lives and our CashBack for Communities scheme is giving our young people the opportunity to be all they can be.
“Street rugby will help to take rugby out of its traditional heartlands and provide opportunities for young people in our more disadvantaged communities to play the game. Geography, social standing and sex should be no barrier to participation in one of our great national sports.”
Over the last two years Scottish Rugby, working in partnership with rugby clubs and local authorities has put in place a network of jointly funded development officers to work with volunteers to boost numbers playing rugby. This has resulted in a 19% increase in youngsters playing the game (up from 15,189 in 2006 to 18,123 in 2007) and a 7% increase in playing adults (up from 8,972 in 2006 to 9,616 in 2007).