World Rugby Funding Models

I had the opportunity to have a chat with William Glenwright, who is the General Manger for World Rugby in Asia & Oceania, about the way that World Rugby funds it’s various programs around the world. Tier 2 and especially the Pacific Island funding is something that I have taken an interest in and was also a hot topic during the Rugby World Cup.

I have covered the funding gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations before and William read that before our interview. William was happy that I had included the various funding models and not just the Rugby World Cup payments for a fair comparison. As he didn’t raise any issues with the piece I’m happy that the numbers are in the right ball park, they aren’t going to be 100% accurate as I had to make some assumptions along the way. Please go read that piece if you want to know about the funding gap, here we will look at how World Rugby allocates it’s money.

Funding Models

We went on to discuss the different funding models that World Rugby has and what these funds can and can’t be used for. There are 4 funding models that World Rugby use:

  • High Performance
  • Development Investment
  • Regional Association
  • Competitions

In addition to these 4 models there is also compensation paid to the Tier 1 nations for loss of revenue from international matches due to the Rugby World Cup. This is the often mentioned eight and a half million pounds that each of them receive.

High Performance

The High Performance funding is unashamedly used to make the Rugby World Cup more competitive and so more attractive to spectators and sponsors. This funding is targeted at Tier 2 countries that are either in the Rugby World Cup or have a realistic chance of getting there meaning that it’s targeted at 10-12 teams. It’s use is purely for the 15s game and preparing the team for the Rugby World Cup. Each union makes a competitive pitch to World Rugby for this funding setting out how they will prepare the team through the 4 year cycle. The funding can be used for administration, coaching, high performance academies, travel and player insurance at the discretion of the union not World Rugby. The one area that it can’t be used for is player salaries and this applies to all of World Rugby’s funding models.

Development Investment

Development Investment is again a competitive application process that is open to all member unions. To grow the game you need to have the right administration in place and this funding is use for that e.g. CoE, development officers salaries. This funding also covers the delivery of participation programs, schools programs, domestic competitions, etc.

Regional Associations

The 6 Regional Associations are given a set of funds to be distributed amongst their unions to grow the game. Again this is a competitive application process that is open to all member unions and this funding is all about growing the game. So again this can be used for the administration and development officers side of things.


Finally there are the Competitions that World Rugby runs. This isn’t about the Rugby World Cup which is self funding and provides most of the funds that goes into these models but the competitions below that. For the Asia and Oceania region for example it this includes the Oceania Cup, Regional mens and ladies 7s and International Junior competitions.

Through these various models World Rugby invested just over ten million pounds in the Pacific Island nations over the last Rugby World Cup cycle.


I talked to Andrew Katoa when he was over in Auckland for the Oceania Olympic 7s qualification tournament. He explained to me that 7s wasn’t part of the High Performance funding and that he didn’t receive any funding from World Rugby.

William acknowledged that World Rugby don’t have a high performance program for 7s and that this is something that World Rugby needs to look into. With the inclusion of 7s in the Rio Olympics that will be getting more focus in 2016. However that inclusion has opened up other avenues of funding through the Olympic Solidarity Movement. World Rugby has agreed a memorandum of understanding with the movement on how countries can apply for funding and has been providing education and assistance with the application process. There are 36 different programs that can provide funding including a team support grant of up to a hundred thousand US dollars.

Asia & Oceania

An area that I hadn’t planned to talk about was governance of the game. Clearly all this funding falls within that but governance is one of those things that is essential for the running of the game but is a topic that most people find boring. I was surprise to find out that Oceania Rugby, so the unions themselves, recognised that governance of the game was the biggest roadblock to success. That’s ahead of funding or home games or any other reason. The regional association has come up with best practice principles some that are mandatory and others that are recommended. These principles are now part of the membership criteria for the association so if a union does not meet them they could be suspended from the association. I agree with William though that you can’t achieve change just with the stick and that the opening up of council seats is a good carrot.

On the governance education side of things, World Rugby runs an annual 2-3 days leading rugby workshop that bring the senior management of member unions together and it has been received very positively. Now in partnership with the Oceania National Olympic Committee a local education program is being implemented. It is recognised as being a work in progress however it is good news to hear that the building blocks are there for this area to improve.

In summary there are various funding models with the administration side of things the priority so that the structure is in place for people to try the game and then play in competitions. Having 7s in the Olympics has opened up other avenues to funding both nationally and internationally. Whilst there is a funding gap it’s not as big as mentioned in other reports and not the largest road block to progress. I still think that the gap needs to be closed however I think that rugby is moving in the right direction. It will be interesting to see the rate of change with changes in the World Rugby council and the rise of some of the Tier 2 nations and 7s.

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