• Burkina Faso, Iran awarded full World Rugby membership

    Burkina Faso, Iran and Laos have achieved World Rugby full member status while Nepal and Panama become new associate members of the international federation.

    At its virtual interim council meeting on Wednesday, World Rugby officially welcomed three unions as full members and two new unions as associate members of the international federation, bringing the global membership to 128 unions.

    Burkina Faso, Iran and Laos have been awarded full member status having met all the relevant criteria, while Nepal and Panama become new associate members.

    The expansion of the World Rugby membership follows the release of the ‘Global reach of rugby 2019’ report earlier this month, which is based on studies conducted by global measurement and data analytics industry leaders Nielsen. It found there are 877 million followers and 405m fans of rugby union worldwide in 2019, up 11% and 18% on 2018 figures, respectively.

    The unprecedented growth has been driven by increases in women’s interest and participation in the sport along with surging enthusiasm in rugby’s emerging nations, with the number of rugby fans across the surveyed emerging nations up to 168m, almost doubling since 2013 when the data gathering began.

    Across 36 surveyed markets, there were more than 140m female rugby fans in 2019, which marks a 29% increase since 2018, and Iran has been at the forefront of driving women’s rugby interest, with more women playing the sport than men. The number of registered players in Iran increased by 20% from 10,000 to 12,000 between 2019-20 and more than 7,000 of those are female.

    ‘World Rugby is delighted to welcome Burkina Faso, Iran and Laos as new full members and Nepal and Panama as associate members as we continue our commitment to the sustainable global growth of the sport combined with strong governance,’ chairman Bill Beaumont said.

    ‘We are dedicated to increasing the breadth and diversity of the global game and the progress being made in countries such as these is a great tribute to the many talented coaches, administrators and volunteers involved in growing the sport across the emerging nations.

    ‘Increasing the interest, participation and executive positions for women in rugby is a key objective for World Rugby, so it is particularly pleasing to see the leading roles being played by women in both the Burkina Faso and Iran unions. As members of the World Rugby family we will work with these unions to provide them with continuous support and a solid framework to accelerate the growth of the sport in their countries.’

    Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images