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World Rugby statement: Five Shape of the Game 2024 recommendations

By Liam Heagney
New Zealand's Richie Mo'unga makes a catch in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The latest World Rugby Shape of the Game forum in London has put forward five recommendations for 2024 – speed and flow, language and perception, the women’s game, player welfare and well-being, and disciplinary process review.

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The annual forum is an opportunity for the game’s major stakeholders to consider the future of rugby by increasing its relevance and accessibility through law and marketing recommendations to advance spectacle and fan engagement.

Its latest recommendations will now be considered by World Rugby’s executive board and council.

A statement read: “World Rugby’s Shape of the Game forum in London has agreed on recommendations to reimagine the spectacle and grow rugby’s share of attention within an increasingly competitive global sports and entertainment market.

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“With the game embarking on a new era of certainty with the introduction of new men’s and women’s global calendars from 2026, including new competitions such as the Nations Championship, and expanded Rugby World Cups, leading figures across the sport are united in driving forwards the entertainment value of the game through fan experience, laws and regulations reform.

“While previous editions of the Shape of the Game forum delivered issue-specific short-term advancements, the 2024 edition is an important milestone in a new law review cycle and had a specific focus on a central mission of driving fan acquisition and retention by increasing relevance and accessibility.

“Playing, coaching, officiating, competitions and fan experts representing five specialist committees (men’s and women’s high performance, professional game, professional leagues and community rugby) were challenged to think big, think long-term and think collectively. Importantly, the groups were urged to view the game through a fan-focused lens.

“Framing the discussions was a detailed review of the latest men’s, women’s and community playing, officiating and welfare trends as well as feedback from technology and audience experts and fans.

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“In particular, delegates focused on addressing barriers to fan engagement – dead-ball time, the elements that interrupt the flow of the game, technology, the terminology and marketing of the sport as a whole.

“The group agreed on the following key action areas for World Rugby to explore in collaboration with key stakeholders before a detailed plan is presented to the federation’s executive board for consideration.”

Shape of the Game 2024 recommendations

    1. Speed and flow: Focus on aspects that keep the game flowing including speeding up the ‘use it’ call by referees at the breakdown, removing repeated scrums options, expanding the remit of the shot clock, a review of the offside law from kicks, and explore moves to provide the scrum-half with greater space and protection at the base of scrum, rucks and mauls.
    2. Language and presentation of the game: A renewed passion and urgency to focus on building rugby’s attention share via a fan-focused view of how the game is marketed, a consistent approach to the presentation of the sport across all media environments, and a focus on the moments in the game that really engage fans.
    3. Women’s game: A dedicated focus on the women’s game and adapting laws, recognising the unique characteristics, strengths and opportunities that exist to attract a new audience.
    4. Player welfare and well-being: A player-driven approach to advances in welfare, including removal of the ‘croc roll’ and examining the breakdown.
    5. Disciplinary process review: Streamlining the sport’s disciplinary and sanctioning processes to aid efficiency, consistency and fan understanding.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Shape of the Game 2024 represents an important milestone in defining the future of our sport.

“It is born from a need and opportunity to grow rugby’s audience by considering how the on-field product and off-field experience can cement long-term growth within a new calendar that delivers long-term certainty of exciting content from expanded Rugby World Cups to new global competitions.

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“It is fantastic to see such a strong desire from all stakeholders – players, coaches, match officials, competition owners, unions and regions – to evolve the game to set us up for success, not just at the elite level, but at the community game. I would like to thank everyone for their forward-thinking and collaborative contributions.”

World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin added: “Rugby is in an attention economy. The attractiveness of the product in all its forms, combined with the excitement of the event experience, the content we create and stories we tell, is central to the sport’s growth as a whole.

“We will not look at actions or law tweaks in isolation, rather consider the changes we should make to definitively move the needle to make the game more relevant, attract new fans and deepen engagement with existing fans, and simplify the sport to make it more accessible.”

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