The Uganda Rugby Union initiative in a bid to support Rugby growth and Development in all regions of the country kicked off this February 2024, in Fortportal. In attendance were the Western Region Association committee executive and Western Region District Coordinators, members and representatives from the Land Rover Uganda Club and the Uganda Rugby Union.
With support from Nile Special, Landrover Uganda Club and Rugby Agency, this first phase of the distribution programme will cover the Western, Northern and Eastern Regions in Uganda. The different regions will further be subdivided into sub-regions for more coverage throughout the country.
Gilbert Rugby donated 1000 rugby balls to the Uganda Rugby Union in 2023 for this initiative.
Gilbert Rugby is a British sports equipment manufacturing brand, specialising in rugby union and netball. The company is mostly known for its rugby balls. It has been the official supplier for every World Cup since 1995.
Each region will receive 150 rugby balls. The balls will go to rugby clubs, schools, age-grade centres and rugby development hubs.
The project was the dream idea and initiative of the current Rugby Union President, Godwin Kayangwe. His vision was to grow Rugby at the grassroots and have it included in the Uganda Physical Education Curriculum. This could mostly be achieved by providing free rugby balls to the younger generation through age-grade centres, as well as to clubs and schools in these regions.
This is one of the long-standing demands that the Uganda Rugby Union has had over the years.
Rugby is a sport that cannot be played safely without using a rugby ball. Soccer, for instance, has simpler alternatives that may be used for simple practice games. Rugby doesn’t have those alternatives. The foundation of rugby is the rugby ball. When children want to learn rugby, they must use a rugby ball. There are, however, smaller balls that may be used for matches between young players.
Whether for League, Union or a quick game of Sevens, playing rugby with the right rugby ball size boosts the player’s ball-handling ability.
There have even been instances where children in some regions have been spotted playing rugby with soccer balls or even recreated alternatives with shapes that resemble rugby balls in some regions. Timothy Byaruhanga and William, who are representatives from the Eastern region gave examples of the improvised rugby balls used in the region. The National Council of Sports representative in the Northern region also explained further how rugby balls were made in the shape of a standard ball but out of banana fibre and these are played by mostly children in schools because of the lack of rugby balls in the region.
With this donation of rugby balls from Gilbert Rugby, this will come to an end.
In other areas where there are rugby balls, they are just not enough or expensive for the players or their associations to buy.
Good rugby balls are expensive. One Gilbert rugby ball costs on average the equivalent of 160,000 Ugshs and even more depending on where you buy one from. This is a cost that very few schools, clubs or hubs can sustainably afford.
These were some of the core reasons why Godwin pushed for this. He dreamed of distributing as many rugby balls as possible nationwide to help develop rugby at the grassroots.
The desire and dream to have Rugby Balls donated and distributed throughout the different regions in Uganda were fast-forwarded when Godwin, who also currently serves as an executive committee member on the Uganda Olympic Committee and Committee member, of Rugby Africa, met Gary Gilbert at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the Capetown Sevens World Cup, in 2022.
Godwin expressed the urgent need to have Rugby Balls donated to Uganda. Gary accepted and on behalf of Gilbert Rugby promised to donate 4000 rugby balls to the Uganda Rugby Union. 1000 balls would be donated annually, for four years. Gary is part of the founding and management team of Gilbert Rugby.
Rugby in Uganda has been passionately supported by different stakeholders in Government and private corporations. One of the notable times was when some of the Uganda Rugby Union executives, different government officials and members of governing rugby bodies met at the World Cup Sevens in Capetown with the President of the World Rugby Federation, Sir Bill Beaumont.
Others included Su Carty, a member of the World Rugby Executive Board, President of the South African Rugby Union, Mr Mark Alexander, Uganda Government Chief Whip, Hon. Denis Hamson Obua, State Minister for Sports, Uganda Government, Hon. Peter Ogwang, National Council of Sports General Secretary, Dr Patrick Bernard Ogwel, His Royal Highness Prince David Kintu Wasajja of Buganda Kingdom, Uganda Rugby Union President, Godwin Kayangwe, Uganda Rugby Union Secretary, Peter Odong.
Another key group in the region targeted for the receiving of Rugby Balls are the Age-grade centres in the different regions in Uganda. According to data collected by the Uganda Rugby Union, there are 85 age-grade centres in Uganda. These are rugby development hubs for potential and active rugby players below 18 years of age.
With the partnership and support from Land Rover Uganda Club, the journey to grow Rugby from the grassroots is ongoing and has a bright future. The Land Rover Uganda Club is committed to inspiring future generations at the grassroots. The Club aims to do this through adventure and love for rugby.
This partnership with World Rugby, Gilbert Rugby, Nile Special and Land Rover Uganda Club continues Land Rover’s long-standing association with Rugby which looks to support all levels of the game. Land Rover supports elite players, teams, and tournaments worldwide.
Land Rover Uganda Club has always been involved in similar programmes. The club is excited to be part of the Rugby Balls distribution program and will be glad to be part of other sustainable grassroots developmental programs to grow Rugby in Uganda.