Rugby and the UN World Food Programme

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 6 September 2007
Rugby and the UN World Food Programme
The IRB North v South match at Twickenham in 2005 raised US$3.35 million for WFP's relief and reconstruction work in the wake of the 2004 Asian tsunami

The United Nations World Food Programme has been the humanitarian partner of the International Rugby Board for four years.

Go to the UN WFP's Tackle Hunger homepage

Play the Tackle Hunger quiz

Why Tackle Hunger?

Hunger and malnutrition are still the number one risks to health worldwide. Over 850 million people worldwide currently go to bed each night hungry, while one in seven people do not currently get enough sustenance to be healthy and lead an active life.

The United Nations World Food Programme was established in 1963 in what was initially a three-year project to counter a growing hunger pandemic triggered by natural disasters and political change. The project was extended and over the next 30 years the number of hungry people worldwide fell from 959 million to 791 million.

However, since the 1990s the number of chronically hungry in developing countries has risen once again, making the need to Tackle Hunger more pressing than ever.

How the Rugby Community Can Help

Rugby is a team sport that is unique in the sense that it fundamentally remains a sport for men, women and children of all shapes and sizes. It is also a sport based on community values, a big family where everyone looks after everyone else. As the Game’s world governing body, the IRB has an obligation and a huge desire to continue to   promote those values. A healthy lifestyle leads to a healthy society and just as Rugby can tackle obesity through a holistic approach, the Game too can help to Tackle Hunger.

The Rugby community is growing. Over 3 million people worldwide play the Game and more are doing so every day , while global television audiences and attendances are also increasing. Rugby World Cup is now the world’s third largest sporting event and the 2007 tournament in France promises to break all previous attendance and broadcast records providing a perfect platform to raise awareness of the work of the UN WFP and to connect the UN WFP with the growing number of corporate organisations that support the global Game, because if the UN WFP is ever to stand a chance of feeding the starving 850 miillion and deal with all of the natural disasters that crop up on a regular basis, then it needs more resources.

IRB fundraiser

The IRB itself staged a fundraising match at Twickenham in 2005 between teams of international players from the northern and southern hemispheres. It raised more than US$3 million that was donated towards WFP's relief and reconstruction work in areas hit by the Asian tsunami of December 2004.

IRB and WFP – The Partnership

The United Nations World Food Programme has been the humanitarian partner of the International Rugby Board for four years and the Tackle Hunger programme has played a significant role in assisting the UN WFP to communicate its important work for the global community.

The Beginning – Rugby World Cup 2003

The Tackle Hunger partnership was launched at Rugby World Cup 2003 in Australia. The unique partnership  was the first humanitarian aid affiliation in the history of the tournament and an extensive campaign of awareness-raising activities was implemented in order to capture the attention of the 2 million travelling supporters and the wider global television audience of 3 billion that an enthralling tournament attracted.

In Australia Tackle Hunger fielded an all-star ambassador team composed of  Rugby World Cup winning captains John Eales, Nick Farr-Jones, David Kirk and Francois Pienaar to educate the world through Rugby about the issues of hunger and the difficulties in getting food to those in need through no fault of their own. In his role as a key member of the Tackle Hunger team, former Australia captain Farr-Jones has visited WFP projects in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2005, he toured Banda Aceh province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra that was devastated by the Asian tsunami. 

A combination of in-stadium visibility through advertising hoardings, programme adverts and editorials and videos also helped to raise awareness. In addition, October 24, 2003 was designated an official Tackle Hunger Day and was marked by a touch rugby match in Sydney, featuring Australian Rugby greats such as Mark Ella, Simon Poidevan and David Campese.

Spreading the word

Tackle Hunger was a resounding success at Rugby World Cup 2003, achieving its triple objective of raising awareness of the UN WFP, drawing attention to the plight of the world’s hungry and connecting the global Rugby community with the programme.

As a result the IRB agreed to extend its relationship with the UN WFP, which became the IRB’s first humanitarian aid partner using the Tackle Hunger  programme across the IRB’s expanding family of international tournaments at all levels of the Game.

High-profile tournaments including the popular record-breaking IRB Sevens World Series, the Under 21 and Under 19 World Championships and Women’s Rugby World Cup were used as platforms to continue to spread the Tackle Hunger message across the world.  In addition the IRB’s Total Rugby TV and Total Rugby Radio broadcast in over 120 countries worldwide have  showcased the Tackle Hunger message.

UN World Food Programme  Tackle Hunger