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Rugby’s Social Return On Investment (SROI)

Rugby’s Social Return On Investment (SROI)

An IRFU and Sport Ireland study into the Social Return On Investment (SROI) of rugby has calculated the value of grassroots rugby to Irish society at over 515 million euro.

It’s the first time a large scale SROI study has been completed by a rugby union to look at the positive value of rugby and attribute a monetary value across economic, social and health benefits.


Social outcomes are determined by looking at areas such as improved educational attainment, volunteering, crime reduction and social capital. The economic impact of social benefits is valued at €117.642m and with over 17,000 volunteers active across the four provinces, the value of volunteer work alone weighs in at €64.97m.

Healthcare savings and value from rugby participation offer the most value at €341.345m. For instance, it is estimated that a total of 4,835 incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes will have been prevented in the reporting period, producing savings of €39.88m.

The uplift that rugby provides to adults’ wellbeing is valued at €206.37m while school and community based participation programmes for children and young people generate a range of health benefits valued at €88.19m.

The economic value of €56.378m is calculated by tracking direct contributions to the economy such as player spending, facility development and employment.

Almost 2,000 Irish Rugby volunteers contributed by participating in a detailed survey with clubs and schools also providing feedback and data. The study was overseen by a steering group including key staff members within Sport Ireland, IRFU, UEFA and Substance Consulting.

IRFU Head Of Rugby Development Ultan O’Callaghan is project lead.

“This study has allowed us to move beyond participation numbers and truly quantify the social, economic and health benefits of rugby,” he said. “If you’ve ever stood on a touchline or sat at a kitchen table and made plans to bring your family to a rugby club, it’s because you understand what it means to be a part that community.

With an average social value of €6,500 per player, we now have data, insight and a monetary value to go with that sentiment and it is hugely significant for us as we build a new strategic direction for the development of Irish Rugby.”

The need for increased data and insight is also behind the continued development of RugbyConnect – an online administration system for clubs. New practises such as the need for players to register themselves and manage their own data creates a much more accurate picture of active participation.

“It’s been transformational for us as a governing body and it will only continue to improve” says O’Callaghan. “It’s allowed us to move towards more data, insight and evidence based decision making and the SROI study is heavily aligned to that. People in sport vote with their feet and we’re using all that direct feedback to build a more sustainable model for our future.”

The availability of comprehensive data through a rigorous SROI model also informs discussions on the need for government funding for rugby clubs.

“Having 1,937 responses to our survey facilitated really significant data set from which to demonstrate the economic, social and healthcare impact of grassroots rugby,” says Tim Crabbe of Substance, the firm who prepared the report on behalf of the IRFU. “We have the impact of this type of study in other territories – it will really serve the IRFU in its negotiations with governments on the need for continued investment.”