The Rugby Alliance Japan event at the Conrad Tokyo, “Diversity In Rugby” emphasised how rugby can include all of society in a way that perhaps other sports cannot. Hearing Magnus Hansson, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover Japan, share about Land Rover Japan’s initiatives ahead of RWC19 was inspiring; big businesses need to support grassroots initiatives to see change. Panelists discussed what makes rugby different from other sports. Values of respect, diversity of format, teamwork are all qualities that rugby eschews. Fiona Taag, Head of Global Sponsorship and Europe Marketing Communications of DHL, suggested that Japan could take a small leaf out of NZ’s book, saying that support to the local Japanese rugby communities will be what delivers value to the Japanese regions outside of Tokyo. President of the Shibuya International Rugby Club and Senior Director at RWC19 Organising Committee, Koji Tokumasu, the "Godfather of Rugby in Japan" extended an invitation to any visiting rugby fans and teams, to visit grassroots, youth Shibuya International Rugby Club. Keiko Asami, World Rugby Board member and former Head Coach of Japan Rugby Women's Sevens Team said that for diversity within rugby to grow, we needed to learn to accept who we are, and move from there. She also said it would be exciting to see the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021 in NZ, which she expects will be another driving force for women rugby player numbers to grow in Japan. Rob Abernethy, Rugby World Cup Limited 2019 Executive Director, basically summed it up when he said diversity in rugby is about rugby being a sport for everyone – a copy of Rob's comments are included below. Thank you to the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan and Executive Director, Lori Henderson and our partners in the Rugby Alliance – the American, British, Canadian, French, Irish, Italian and South African chambers of commerce in Japan, and the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As a chamber in Japan we enjoy participating and helping to drive these discussions because we care! Together we are working with the RWC19 Organising Committee and World Rugby Leadership to deliver the RWC2019 “Impact Beyond 2019” legacy. Photos provided by the British Chamber are online here.
RUGBY ALLIANCE – DIVERSITY & INCLUSION – World Rugby Executive Director for RWC19, Rob Abernethy Closing Remarks
26 March 2019
Distinguished guests, Asami san, Shimazu san, Tokumasu san, the Rugby Alliance & joint Chamber representatives, Fiona and Magnus from our RWC 2019 Worldwide Partners DHL and Jaguar Land Rover respectively, ladies and gentlemen, friends of rugby…and friends. Good Afternoon….Konichiwa…it is my great pleasure to be here today and thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Rob Abernethy and I’m the RWC 2019 Executive Director based here in Tokyo working with our partner Japan Rugby 2019 to deliver the Rugby World Cup kicking off 20 September, or just 178 days from now. Firstly thank you for hosting today’s event and in turn offering another important platform for discussing Diversity and Inclusion, already a key agenda item for World Rugby and its stakeholders and supporters over some time. We believe that rugby is the perfect vehicle for inclusivity and diversity. To put it simply, World Rugby’s mission is to grow the global rugby family and vision is ‘a sport for all, true to its values’. The two statements go hand in hand – rugby is a growing, thriving, global sport because it is inclusive and fosters diversity at all levels. We are a game for all shapes and sizes – physicality’s – genders – ages and abilities from touch, to tag, to beach, sevens, tens, fifteens a side format - there is something in rugby for everyone. Rugby is the fastest-growing women’s team sport – the female fan base is growing at 6x the rate of males and for the second year in a row in 2018, more new females joined the sport than men – indeed, twice as many last year. We are proud of our work to close the gender gap. Driven by an ambitious 2017-25 Women’s game development plan, we are breaking down barriers and seizing opportunities – strengthening participation and competitions, promoting leadership and inspiring everyone to get on board. World Rugby has moved from 0% women on its Representative Council to 35% in a little over a year – progressive times indeed. We are also proud of our partnership with the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation and the shared values and projects that we are hold so dear – indeed, Japan is a trailblazer in wheelchair rugby and we will see this form of the game showcased at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. We are also proud of our partnership with International Gay Rugby and the promotion of inclusivity and diversity projects around the world. We have heard already from the esteemed panel about the great development wins via the Impact Beyond 2019 program is delivering along with our official RWC 2019 charity, ChildFund and their Pass It Back program, the latter bringing terrific rugby and life legacy outcomes to individuals and communities not so privileged across Japan and Southeast Asia. But none of this would be possible without purpose, people and character and that’s why I believe that the sport Rugby is a winner. We are a sport that does not just have values - of SOLIDARITY, PASSION, INTEGRITY, DISCIPLINE & RESPECT - we live them! Yes, there are always challenges, areas to improve upon or grow…that we World Rugby could do better on but we are a community that is a sum of its global grassroots to elite parts – a movement for good and I believe as it relates to us over the next 7-8 months RWC 2019 as a vehicle can further progress the sport and what is stands for here in Japan, in Asia more broadly and in doing so, around the globe. Thank you / arigato gozaimasu for the opportunity to say a few words to you today and thank you to the Rugby Alliance for hosting this event.
Just quickly on RWC 2019 if I may:
To date it is the most successful RWC ticketing program in RWC history! Huge international take up – 400,000 is the inbound visitation forecast, let’s hope its greater than that all can enjoy the positive benefits and impacts. Huge take up domestically not only in the big cities / 12 host cities, venues and Fan Zones but the reach will also cover the regional areas that will also host many of the 55 Team Camps across the length and breadth of Japan. RWC 2019 will be special, it will be ever so unique, it will be a festival…it will be a celebration … a fusion of rugby and culture. Thank you all once again for your support and contribution to our cause the and the RWC 2019.