Posts in the Park two months on
Over the last two months, youngsters across England have been getting involved in the build-up to Rugby World Cup 2015 with the Rugby Football Union’s Posts in the Park initiative. Under this programme up to 100 posts will be installed in the 10 English RWC 2015 host cities over the next two years.
Aimed at broadening the appeal of the Game and reaching out to new audiences, Posts in the Park launched nationwide on the two years to go milestone on 18 September 2013, and has already inspired youngsters from all walks of life to get down to their local park and try their hand at rugby.
ER 2015 catches up with Paul Taylor, Sports Development Officer for Leicestershire and Rutland Sport, who has already co-ordinated the installation of all 10 posts in Leicester.
How did you get involved with the Posts in the Park initiative?
“I was approached by Leicester City Council to work for two days a week on their legacy programme and was of course delighted to accept - the idea of trying to raise the profile of rugby in this country is something that I really believe in. We’ve been working closely with the local council and managed to get off to a flying start with all 10 sets of posts installed already.
“In most parts of England, access to rugby posts is either through rugby clubs or at schools that play the game – Posts in the Park is a great opportunity to break the mould and get youngsters to go down to their local public park and have a kick-around with a rugby ball in their free time.”
What’s been the reaction to Posts in the Park in Leicester?
“Hugely positive. We’ve already seen a marked increase in the number of kids playing rugby in public areas in Leicester since the installation. I would love to do a strategic evaluation of how many kids in Leicester are now kicking a rugby ball about due to Posts in the Park, but empirical evidence so far suggests that the local youngsters are really taking to the posts.
“A couple of people jokingly suggested to me that the posts would only be used as football goals. But even if that is the case the kids will still be seeing the RWC 2015 post pads, raising their awareness of the tournament and the fact that one of the greatest sporting events in the world is coming to Leicester in less than two years’ time.
“The posts set up at Welland Park in Market Harborough have been particularly well received by the locals, and the club is now renting out rugby balls and kicking tees for kids that want to go and use the newly set up posts. Then, once they have finished and return everything to the club they get their money back. It would be great to replicate this across the city as there are various parks in Leicester that would be suitable for this.”
Tell us about rugby clubs in your community.
“Rugby’s stronghold in this part of the world is very much in the county, as opposed to the actual city of Leicester itself. Similarly, the strong rugby playing schools here are also in the county, which inevitably has a knock on effect on the clubs. While the work that the clubs in the counties are doing is absolutely fantastic, I want to try and re-address this imbalance and use the attraction of RWC 2015 and Posts in the Park to generate more interest in rugby in Leicester and raise the profile of clubs in the city.
The Leicester Tigers stadium, for example, is right in the middle of the city but the majority of their members are out in the county. Part of my job is to engage the rugby community in the city, and I think that Posts in the Park will play a key role in connecting with new audiences – that’s why we installed more than half of our posts in built-up areas.”
What has been the reaction to Leicester being named as a RWC 2015 host city?
“There is a real buzz around rugby clubs in Leicester at the moment because of RWC 2015, and the club members are great advocates for the tournament within the wider community. You can already see young players sharing their excitement at the prospect of RWC 2015 coming to Leicester with their schoolmates and this is so important when it comes to broadening the appeal of the Game.”
How do you think people will engage with RWC 2015 nearer tournament time?
“There will be a real draw for Leicester Tigers fans with their three Argentine internationals potentially set to play here for the Pumas. It would be great for the people of Leicester to see the likes of Gonzalo Camacho in action for his country here in two years’ time. His partner sang the Argentine national anthem when they played England at Twickenham last month, and I’m already looking at ways in which we can get them involved in our cultural programme around RWC 2015. Getting recognised figures down to Posts in the Park and acting as ambassadors for our work here in Leicester would undoubtedly get more youngsters excited about rugby and raise the profile of what we’re doing.
“I also want to run out a country adoption programme for youngsters across Leicestershire, not just for the teams that will be playing at the Leicester City Stadium, but for all 20 participating nations. Getting youngsters to represent RWC 2015 teams in a local rugby competition would be a great way to raise their interest in the visiting teams and give the tournament a local feel, at the same time as educating them about other cultures.
“RWC 2015 is going to create some unforgettable memories for our youngsters, and I‘ll do my best to ensure that we use this and the great initiatives like Posts in the Park to create a lasting legacy for the game of rugby in this country. So far we’re right on track to achieve this.”