The Welsh Rugby Union has made available £1m to invest in a major new initiative to develop grass roots community rugby across Wales.
The £1m will fund equipment for more than 300 Welsh clubs based upon a points system which rewards one of the WRU's strategic aims of increasing participation in rugby at all levels in the grass roots and community game.
The project has been approved by the WRU in a bid to ensure Welsh rugby remains the national sport of Wales.
The WRU Participation Points scheme is centred upon modernising the equipment and facilities available for players, coaches, supporters and volunteers.
All the Welsh Rugby Union community clubs across Wales will qualify for the scheme based on what they deliver to the sport through their own endeavours in growing the game.
Clubs can use their participation points to claim items of equipment contained in a special brochure being drawn up by the Welsh Rugby Union for distribution by the end of June 2010.
The brochure will feature the items available and the clubs will simply have to achieve the correct number of participation points for the item or items they want.
The number of participation points each club is awarded will be based on the criteria checks already established so the number of teams from U7s to senior and womens' sides plus the number of first aiders, match officials, coaches will all contribute to the points a club can earn.
The brochure will contain items from balls and bibs to tackle bags and shields, post protectors, kit, medical bags to scrummaging machines.
In addition to increasing participation levels the aim of this initiative is to ensure clubs across Wales are:-
+ supported by fully trained volunteers
+ properly equipped to develop the national sport of Wales.
+ fully able to embrace the digital age
One key criteria check to earn more participation points will be whether the club is registered online to use the MyWRU intranet site. This is to incentivise all clubs in the WRU to work online and so the brochure will make laptops available to clubs as well.
Because the scheme offers £1m of buying power the WRU is negotiating preferential deals for bulk orders so the brochure will contain unbeatable bargains for the clubs. The WRU believes that its £1million will be worth a lot more to the rewarded clubs.
Subject to the participation points, each participating club will be able to choose exactly what their needs are so that nothing is wasted on unwanted equipment.
The points system will be open to all the community clubs from division one and below including District members of the Welsh Rugby Union.
The points will be awarded to clubs over the weeks ahead and by June the brochure will be published so that clubs can receive the new equipment within months.
Clubs receiving their allotted WRU Participation Point vouchers will be able to get equipment by completing an order form which will be attached to the brochure.
The project is a one-off £1m financial injection into Welsh rugby which runs parallel to the other existing support structures.
WRU Group Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, said: "These are financially challenging times for all of our communities in Wales and so we feel it is critically important to re-invest in the improvement of our rugby clubs now.
" We have significantly increased our funding to the four Regions, we have built the WRU National Centre of Excellence at the Vale Resort and we have launched a National Academy for our sport.
"Now we are launching this £1m initiative to help deliver on our promise of developing the game at grassroots level across Wales. This is new money we are putting into the game.
"Rugby is our national sport and our rugby clubs are at the centre of Welsh life for many which means they must be welcoming and successful environments.
"We want our players and supporters to maintain the pride they undoubtedly have in the clubs of which they are members and we want to attract a new wave of players and families to the game.
"A key weapon in our armoury for generating money for Welsh rugby is a winning Wales team filling the Millennium Stadium and once we have supported that principle we want to improve community rugby.
"Our rugby clubs are at the heart of our communities and this initiative will help them play even more significant roles in Welsh life.
"We have to hold the vision of making our clubs as modern, relevant and inclusive as possible.
"For that to prove sustainable we have to make them all safe, healthy, pleasant and well run places which people want to return to.
"We already have many excellent and well run community clubs. This initiative will help them improve and also help the more challenged clubs.
"I am proud to announce this financial commitment as a great example of our determination to improve rugby at all levels in Wales."
"2011 promises to be a truly memorable year for Welsh rugby. We announced this week that we will host the 2011 Heineken Cup Final. Today's statement is the next in a series which highlight how the WRU is taking our game forward.
"The WRU celebrates its 130th anniversary in 2011 and we want all of our clubs to celebrate our birthday with confidence in the future of our game."
Scarlets, Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half, Stephen Jones, said: "This is a great boost for the clubs which form the cornerstone of our national sport.
"Every player who is selected to play for Wales will have travelled a development journey which started in the heart of the community game.
"Without a flourishing grassroots game we would not be able to ensure a successful elite level of rugby in the future."
WRU Chairman, David Pickering, added: "The Welsh Rugby Union is committed to ensuring the grassroots game is protected and developed.
"I know how hard all our volunteers and officials work week in week out and that devotion is mirrored through the efforts of our Board of Directors.
"We know the challenges we face in this tough economic environment and that's why the safekeeping of our community game is a major priority for Welsh rugby."
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
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