The ambitious and comprehensive plans will open up new quality opportunities in rugby and radically change the relationship all young people in Ireland have with the game.
The Sports Council worked in partnership with the IRFU to develop their Operational Plan which addresses the issue of participation and retention of young people in rugby.
The Plan has 21 programmes which target all areas of participation and development from grassroots upwards.
Rugby stars Michael Galwey, David Wallace and Paul O’Connell were amongst those present when Sports Minister John O’Donoghue, announced the funding at University of Limerick yesterday.
“Rugby is one of our most popular sports and has produced excellent role models like Mick Galwey and the IRFU is an outstanding sports organisation,” Minister O’Donoghue said.
“It has the capacity, with financial support, to attract many more young people into the game and this investment in the structures, programmes and activities of the IRFU will bring many benefits to sport and to communities.”
Pat O’Neill, Chairperson of the Irish Sports Council said they were delighted to allocate significant funding to rugby in 2002.
“We are confident that the plans presented by the IRFU will significantly enhance the sporting opportunities available to young Irish people,” he said.
In Budget 2001 the Government allocated 635,000, through the Irish Sports Council, towards the encouragement of greater under-aged participation in rugby.
The Irish Sports Council worked with the IRFU to identify programmes that would ensure the effective deployment of funds and the Tallaght Project has become a model for sports development as an instrument of social inclusion.
In 2002 the IRFU were successful in seeking a major increase in their funding to 3.75m to enhance its range of participation and development programmes. The IRFU’s contribution to the package of initiatives is 9.21m.
“We are delighted with this investment in the IRFU and the endorsement in our structures and initiatives for young people,” said Philip Browne, Chief Executive of the IRFU.
“We believe that our organisation can meet the challenges facing our sport and implement exciting new programmes for the benefit of everybody interested in rugby.”
This year the IRFU Programmes will be expanded to include a range of initiatives that will make a practical difference to clubs and schools and improve participation rates.
The most significant of these is the expansion of the network of development officers charged with implementing nationally approved and locally managed programmes.
The Clubs of Ireland and the Schools of Ireland programmes provide financial and structural support to enable clubs and schools to continue to thrive in their communities.
With the Support of the Irish Sports Council, 48 AIB League Clubs and 131 Qualifying League Clubs will benefit under the Clubs of Ireland Programme and 120 schools will benefit from the Schools of Ireland scheme.
“The Irish Sports Council is working to improve participation rates among young people,” said John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council. “We will support organisations that produce plans that target young people and are committed to developing their sports.”