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England Rugby announced in July that its O2 Touch programme has successfully reached and surpassed its target of introducing 15,000 registered players to the game by summer 2017. Tracking one year ahead of its intended deadline there are now 17,500 registered O2 Touch players, playing touch rugby on a regular basis across England.
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, bringing the total number of centres to 321 nationwide. 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.
As part of the RFU’s commitment to broadening rugby’s reach and sustaining legacy post the Rugby World Cup for the game, O2 Touch has played an important role in attracting new people to the sport. O2 Touch is a social format of rugby, aiming to breakdown common barriers to participation, by creating an offering that is easily accessible, is played by men and women of all levels and gives participants a great playing experience.
Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director today said: “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. 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.”
Gareth Griffiths, Head of Sponsorship at O2 comments “O2 Touch is a fantastic success story and we’re proud the programme has reached such an impressive milestone so far ahead of schedule. Touch rugby is open to all no matter your ability and it provides a great introduction to the sport. We look forward to continuing our work with all the volunteers, local clubs and the RFU to develop O2 Touch even further.”
Jennie Price, CEO Sport England today said: “This is a fantastic achievement and we are delighted to see the RFU broadening their reach beyond their traditional rugby market. To have exceeded the target a year in advance is a testament to the success of the O2 Touch format and the commitment from all involved.”
O2 Touch is a unique offering giving participants a great playing experience and workout. One of the first team sports to combine music and fitness, touch sessions are played to bespoke O2 Touch music mixes designed to motivate and increase enjoyment. O2 Touch also delivers a social fitness aspect with participants burning on average 775 calories per session.
The programme is coordinated by the RFU in partnership with O2 and also supported with funding from Sport England. O2 Touch operates both a ‘pitch up and play’ facility aimed at individuals who are new to rugby or who can’t commit on a weekly basis and O2 Touch leagues for those who want to play in a more structured and competitive environment.