Researchers partner with England's Harlequins on Rugby Research

Researchers from the Sport Inclusion Project are working with the Harlequins Foundation and Harlequin FC to conduct historic research to support efforts to promote inclusion and help community rugby clubs to boost and maintain participation rates.

The research is part of a global project that began in Australia, which is now expanding to the UK, Canada, and United States.

The findings from the research in the UK will be used to develop pragmatic that clubs can use to attract a diverse player group, including more women and girls. These programs will include effective approaches to reduce thoughtless language that can make girls, women, and gay kids feel unwelcome.

In Australia, the research, backed by Rugby Australia and the Melbourne Rebels, involved conducting surveys at every rugby club in two states, including at the Australian Harlequins RUFC (shown below).

About the Research

Short, 7-10 minutes surveys will be completed, prior to normal weekly training, by male and female players (16+) at six randomly selected rugby clubs in January and February.

Conducting this research using paper & pen results in a 95-100% participation rate and very positive responses from athletes around being part of the research.

Players will also have the opportunity to be part of focus-groups, at a later date, if they want to share their thoughts on how to make rugby more inclusive and welcoming to all.

Why is this research needed?

Research consistently finds negative language about women and gay people remains common, in traditionally male sports. This isn't 'new' information and World Rugby has made public pledges to create programs and approaches to change this behaviour.

Surprisingly, almost no statistical research has been conducted examining 'why' this language is used by athletes who also express positive attitudes about both women and gay people (many have close female and gay friends). The lack of research into the cause, makes it difficult for World Rugby, and country unions, to develop solutions.

Even more important: research in Australia found most male athletes want the language to stop, and don't realise others around them feel the same. Providing them with this information could help to change everyone's behaviour.

”No one wants to stop banter. This is about giving clubs the tools to encourage 'better banter' which does not make girls and others feel unwelcome. Similar to Australia, we expect we'll find most English rugby players want harmful banter to stop," says Lead Researcher Erik Denison

The surveys, and focus groups, will also ask questions to help clubs grow their female teams, including unique questions for the female athletes around why they choose to play rugby.

One very useful question that will be asked is around whether male athletes support more money being spent on women's rugby, even if it means they get less. Surprisingly, most Australian and New Zealand born male rugby players supported more funding for women.

The findings will be shared with participating clubs after the data has been collected, along with recommendations that club committees can use in planning for the 20/21 season.

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