Scottish Rugby says grassroots rugby delivers an economic benefit of at least £159.16m per year

Study claims that £7.71 social value is generated for every £1 spent on supporting the game

Pupils training at Wester Hales High School in Edinburgh yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon. Image: Mark Scates/SNS Group/Scottish Rugby
Pupils training at Wester Hales High School in Edinburgh yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon. Image: Mark Scates/SNS Group/Scottish Rugby

GAV SCOTT, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development, says that the study unveiled yesterday [Wednesday] measuring the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of the grassroots game in Scotland is principally an acknowledgement and celebration of the work which is put in by volunteers and volunteer groups at the sport’s pit-face.

The study has concluded that grassroots rugby in Scotland delivers an economic benefit of at least £159.16m per year – broken down into three categories of social (£41.2m), economic (£13.46m) and health and wellbeing (£103.31m) – representing a Social Return on Investment (SROI) ratio of £1:7.71, meaning that there is £7.71 of social benefit for every £1 spent on supporting the game.

Data was drawn from a wide range of sources including over 1,600 players, parents, volunteers and match officials, and more than 60 per cent of member clubs around the country participated.

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“It’s a great piece of work,” said Scott, speaking at the study’s launch at Wester Hailes High School in rain-lashed west Edinburgh earlier today. “We started this journey about a year ago and there was loads of information we needed to gather. It’s genuinely a celebration of everything that is done by clubs, schools and volunteers in the game. That is what this is all about.

“It’s about people who put into the game for nothing and the value that has for society in Scotland. As people involved in rugby, it’s things we probably already know – we know there are benefits to both health and wellbeing from a playing perspective but also from a volunteering perspective –  [but now] we’ve put some numbers to it in an effort to show people there are strong benefits to our sport.”

“As the governing body we are there to govern and promote the sport and sometimes it’s the governance bit that gets hung up on by everybody, and not the promotion and celebration of the sport,” he added. “This helps reinforce it. It is a genuine thanks. This is what the community does for the whole of the Scottish population, not just those who play the game. It’s a great thing for us to say well done. We hope we can have a game in the future that more people want to take part in, as volunteers or players.”


Scottish Rugby's: Director of Rugby Development, Gavin Scott, says study on Social Return on Investment is a celebration of the contribution of volunteers at grassroots level. Image: Mark Scates / SNS Group / Scottish Rugby
Scottish Rugby’s: Director of Rugby Development, Gavin Scott, says study on Social Return on Investment is a celebration of the contribution of volunteers at grassroots level. Image: Mark Scates / SNS Group / Scottish Rugby


Scott acknowledged that it is hoped that the study can also be used to help establish and develop partnerships with public and private partners in order to grow the sport at ground level, but he insisted that this is not a straightforward marketing exercise for potential investors in the sport.

“It’s also about how we can partner with them to get better ends for both of us,” he explained. “There has to be a more modern view – it isn’t ‘here’s what we do and you need to buy into our sport’ because every sport can say the same thing.

“I think one point of difference we have is we have a really big volunteer population who are really committed. We [still] need to grow that but it can bring real value to all our communities. This is a starting point. We can now use this to launch into communities.

“One of the things I’m really passionate about is that this starts with volunteers before players. The volunteers have to be there – someone has to get a ball or a set of cones. That volunteer can be 12 years old, they can be any age, but that’s how the game starts. The more we can push the benefits of that – and that’s the health and wellbeing, you connect better with other people, you learn things and you’ll work with others.



Keith Wallace, Vice President of Scottish Rugby and Chair of its Club Rugby Board, said: “Our Social Impact and Valuation Report is a real game changer. For the first time it provides hard evidence of what we all strongly believed. Firstly, that our thousands of volunteers deliver huge value; and secondly, that participation in club rugby delivers benefits for players, clubs, communities and the Scottish economy.

“£31m of value from our volunteers recognises the crucial role they all play in the ongoing success of the community game. An 8:1 return on investment in grassroots rugby is a remarkable achievement. Scottish Rugby is proud to support and partner with clubs to grow participation. This brings a great opportunity to draw in new investment, with increasing focus in many organisations on ESG (Environment, Social and Governance), which in turn will increase the positive impacts for all areas of our society and economy.”

Maree Todd, MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport said: “I am a great believer in the power of sport and this report demonstrates the social, economic and health and wellbeing benefits of grassroots sports such as rugby.

“Sport and physical activity helps to improve a person’s physical and mental health and brings communities together. Grassroots sport would not be the power it is if it wasn’t for the army of volunteers across the country who give up their precious time to benefit others.

“I would like to thank all involved in this report and everyone who contributes to grassroots rugby in Scotland. I look forward to working with Scottish Rugby to see how we can continue supporting the growth of the sport at grassroots level.”

Chief Executive Officer for Substance, the company which created the report, Tim Crabbe said: “Scottish Rugby’s high-quality data and insights are reflected in the powerful findings about the reach and value of the game presented in this report. We are confident that they represent a minimum value that can grow based on further evaluation and service enhancements.

“Equally, and perhaps more importantly, we have confidence that the findings will be used to inform new policies and programmes that ensure rugby reaches into and delivers the greatest possible benefits for all of Scotland’s communities.”

Substance also delivered a report on the SROI of the grassroots game to Irish rugby back in late 2022 although it is not now available on the organisation’s website. However, in January 2023, the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Written Submission to the Irish Government’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media stated that:

To build on our commitment to social responsibility, Irish Rugby has been working with Sport Ireland and UEFA to measure the social return of investment in Irish Rugby. Our SROI study is the first of its kind in rugby and is included in this submission. It details how the social return on investment in grassroots rugby is valued at over €515 million.

The Scottish Rugby report from ‘Substance’ issued yesterday addresses this, although the explanation is not easy to understand for the uninitiated:

Whilst the overall valuation was less than that from the recent study completed for the Irish Rugby Football Union it was based on smaller numbers of players and volunteers and also reflects the lower recorded rates of physical inactivity in Scotland. The lower the physical inactivity rate, the higher the discount applied for ‘deadweight’, or what might have happened anyway. Encouragingly, on a more directly comparative basis, the per player value is much more closely aligned with that recorded in a study for the Scottish Football Association in 2019. Furthermore, studies that have considered the full range of sports at the national level have tended to identify lower SROI ratios of between £3-4 for every £1 invested than those recorded in this study and others focused on the benefits of rugby.

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About David Barnes 3989 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. So – the highly transparent “buttering up” process has begun, in advance of the oh-so-predictable grovelling to the SG for the funding sorely needed to finance the upgrading and re-development of the EH12 real estate.

    As if the relatively recent eye-watering SG-sourced taxpayer bung totalling £20 million (much of which was retained by the bloated, grossly overstaffed and financially imprudent Governing Body) wasn’t enough….

    Oh well, the unprofitable SRU now has to generate out of its pressured revenue streams a wedge sufficient to keep CVC happy, and one does wonder what they paid “Substance” for the study – and whether or not Messrs Wallace, Grevemberg & McGuigan had written the conclusions at the outset, simply requiring the “experts” to fill in the blanks and make the case….?

    Bottom line is that Maree Todd MSP has been in the SRU pocket for some time, but her problem, and that of the SRU, is that the SG has little or no budgetary wriggle room these days, with infinitely greater financial priorities in several key areas such as health, education and national infrastructure. Troubled times!

  2. The report, & the media articles about it, raises more questions than answers, at least for me! I assume the strategic intent of this assessment was to try & show the benefits of rugby in order to garner more support (especially financial) from national/ local governments & the socially conscious section of the private sector, but this intent (or whatever the intent was) hasn’t been made clear. Is this a baseline report or a one-off? The only comparative ratio provided is for the Irish RFU, and shows we’re way behind them, but the report then undermines this comparison by explaining the “discount applied for deadweight” distorts this comparison! Although the cost of acute injuries were considered, the cost of long-term ailments from playing rugby doesn’t appear to have been, so the accuracy of the cost benefit is questionable. How does rugby compare to other activities, including non-rugby? We may even find community garden allotments provide better SROIs!
    This type of study & findings may be the conduit for raising Scottish rugby’s profile with certain bodies/ organisations & help in obtaining further investment, but the conclusions & ‘selling points’ from this report needs to be far better presented, explained, & promoted (& in layman’s language), otherwise the report will be viewed as irrelevant & dismissed. The present lack of context & reasoning for the report gives the impression of this being mainly a vanity project/ activity for the SRU, which given the state of the SRU’s finances, will be hard to justify.
    P.S. An interesting point for me that the report identified was that ‘Parents’ contributed to just over 30% of the input. This indicates the importance of parents to the success & future of rugby in Scotland, but is one area/ group that the SRU has largely ignored & usually failed to communicate with. Hopefully the new SRL CEO will address this, that is if & whenever the SRU appoints one.

  3. I think this report has been produced to nudge the Scottish Government to put more money into grassroots rugby and not just into minority sports or the fat ugly lady.

  4. So the message is clear , concentrate investment in the grass roots and the game will take care of itself

    • Indeed if that £20 million had gone to grassroots of SA agents n players reps it could have had huge benefits. Still look at all the silverware the short termism brought….oh wait….


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