Ambitious plan is designed to reinvigorate the club game, which has been struggling to retain players, as part of the World Cup legacy
Grass-roots rugby in England is to land a £50million World Cup windfall with the Rugby Football Union poised to invest in 100 artificial pitches across the country in a bid to boost participation in the club game, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
The ambitious plan, which is thought to be the biggest single investment in the grass-roots game by the governing body, is designed to reinvigorate the club game, which has been struggling to retain players, as part of the World Cup legacy.
The move follows the decision by the Football Association to invest £260 million to build 600 all-weather 3G pitches and create 150 football hubs over the next four years.
Details of the RFU’s plans will be presented to the governing body’s council in their meeting at Twickenham on Friday but it is understood to have already been agreed by the management board, with the proposal already in an advanced stage.
The RFU is already planning to invest £54 million in upgrading the East Stand at Twickenham, as revealed by Telegraph Sport on Tuesday, and this fresh investment will bring the governing body’s total spend to over £100 million over the next four years.
The move comes after the RFU annual report revealed record turnover of over £200 million even before the profits of the World Cup are taken into account, which are set to exceed £15 million on top of the tier one nation distribution.
The details of the location of the pitches has yet to be clarified, but it is thought that clubs will be able to apply to have one laid and must first meet a number of strict criteria and own the freehold or at least a long-term leasehold on the land.
A management company is likely to be formed to manage the pitches across the country, at a cost of up to £500,000 per annum, which the investment in each pitch costing up to £850,000.
It is understood that the RFU identified four key reasons to make the business plan for the investment, including soundings from the Met Office about the likelihood of winters becoming milder but more inclement weather in the long term.
The RFU were also encouraged by increase in playing numbers witnessed by the FA following their decision to invest in artificial pitches, as well as the impact of increased demand on grass pitches, many of which do not have adequate drainage.
Another factor is to meet the players’ experience and expectation as more and more schools are using artificial pitches in schools, as well as competition from other sports
It is thought the model is based on the success of the artificial pitch at Maidenhead Rugby Club in Berkshire, which is also used by a number of clubs in the area.
“The RFU believe this investment will revolutionise the club game by providing the facilities to attract more people into the sport across England,” said one source.
News of the investment is likely to lift the mood at the council meeting on Friday, the first time the body has met since England’s disastrous World Cup campaign.
Several senior councillors have been angered at the management board’s reaction to England’s pool stage exit while others believe that a complete root and branch overhaul of the professional game is required to ensure that England fulfil their potential after just one Six Nations title since their 2003 World Cup triumph.
“The management board still have to take responsibility for the World Cup disaster and there are real concerns that there will be no legacy from the tournament,” said one councillor.
Meanwhile, Eddie Jones, the new England head coach, is expected to arrive in the UK on Friday after his work permit was approved by the British Embassy in Japan.
It is not yet clear whether Jones will attend any Premiership matches this weekend but he is expected to hold meetings with the coaching staff that has remained in place despite Stuart Lancaster’s departure last month.
The future of Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt will be determined by Jones, who is keen to bring Steve Borthwick into his new coaching set-up.