Sport England this week has announced that it is reducing the funding to the RFU by £1m following a disappointing two years which has seen participation in the sport drop by an alarming 23%.
Every year Sport England undertakes The Active People Survey which is the largest survey of sport and active recreation in Europe. Between 2009 and 2011 over 52,000 adult players have stopped playing rugby. That equates to over 3,470 teams. To put it another way 500 players quit rugby every week.
That is a staggering number, particularly when you consider the resources the RFU have put into developing community rugby. It is also worrying when you consider the small margins that clubs operate under and that very often the social side and bar takings are what clubs rely on. If clubs start loosing teams then there own survival is at risk.
The Olympics in 2016 will see the reintroduction of Rugby (albeit Sevens) and the RFU and Sport England will surely be investing in developing a team to compete for the Gold. Perhaps the economic crisis has directly impacted on sport in general, but the decline will certainly concern all those who play, support and manage rugby in England.
The question is how can we encourage more people to the game and bring back the local rugby community to sustain the grass roots of the sport.