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European Law Monitor newsRugby Union improving social inclusion and health - exhibition in the European Parliament

Days before the kick off of the Rugby World Cup, the European Parliament hosted an exhibition on rugby union highlighting its growing appeal and the charitable work of the Rugby Football Union (RFU). The exhibition gave an opportunity to demonstrate that rugby is a broadly based sport both in terms of those who participate in it and in terms of what it contributes to communities not just in the Member States but also further a field through charitable work.

Eight European Rugby playing nations involved Rugby presentation at the European Parliament

Eight EU Member State national rugby associations were present at the exhibition namely: England (sponsor), Belgium, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal. The exhibition which lasts for three days from 28-30 August was organised around the theme of rugby - a sport for all, and shows how rugby has an important dimension in social policy terms, building communities and helping less favoured sectors. Also present at the exhibition are SOS Kit aid who donate used kit to teams in poorer countries and Touraid giving opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to come to the UK to play rugby. (See links below)

Jim Nicholson (EPP-ED, UK, Northern Ireland, Ulster Unionist) whose office organised the event in the European Parliament said: "The intense media interest in rugby at the moment with the start of the World Cup only days away gives us an ideal opportunity through the exhibition to demonstrate the role rugby plays at community level throughout the EU and beyond in improving health, social inclusion and equality. The exhibition includes participation by a number of rugby-based charities who are involved in various projects aimed at helping children in both the EU and the developing world."

"I am delighted that Commissioner Figel', Syd Millar Chairman of the International Rugby Board, and Rob Andrew Head of Elite Rugby at the RFU attended the event."

Rugby's popularity expanding fast

Ján Figel' European Commissioner for Sport made reference to the recently published Commission White Paper on Sport (see link below). The well-informed Commissioner said: "Rugby's popularity is expanding fast, there are eight countries from the EU playing in the Rugby World Cup so we have good chances although competition from the southern hemisphere will be tough." He continued: "Sport is a generator of values that breeds responsibility and teamwork." Syd Millar Chairman of the International Rugby Board echoed his comments: "Rugby is expanding fast, 30 000 people watching a match in Madagascar, 19 000 in Dakar Senegal, or 60 000 watching Romania against Russia. The Rugby World Cup is key to financing the game down to the grass roots levels […] 99 per cent or more of the players and coaches are amateur".

For Martyn Thomas Chairman of the RFU, England: "Rugby brings people together and is a way of fighting social exclusion." Mr Thomas made reference to a scheme in Andover where seven housing estates organised a rugby tournament for children aged 12-14 who were awarded points for fair-play, good behaviour and docked points for anti-social behaviour and vandalism. The tournament led to a 50 per cent reduction in crime and had been so successful, he said, it had now been taken up by the UNICEF and spread around the world.

Live the dream

England rugby legend and now England's Elite Rugby Director Rob Andrew underlined the uniqueness of sport. "It is important to get kids involved in rugby. Sport is different to other industries, kids wherever they grow up, must have the opportunity for their talent to be nurtured and have the chance to represent their countries. Sport is different, it is unique, it is about giving people the chance to live their dreams."