The union is working with the country’s government to grow the sport
Georgia to build 100 new rugby pitches
The Georgia Rugby Union (GRU) is planning to quadruple the number of pitches in the country.
Working with the Georgia government, the GRU aims to build 100 new pitches at 45 locations over the coming years – a huge increase on the current 27 – in the hope that this will boost playing numbers and help develop, say, the next Mamuka Gorgodze or Vasil Lobzhanidze.
Georgia are currently ranked 12th in the world and are frontrunners to secure the Europe One spot at the 2023 Rugby World Cup having won a fourth straight Rugby Europe Championship this year.
Rugby World put a few questions to GRU president Ioseb Tkemaladze to find out about his plans for rugby in Georgia…
Could you explain more about the project to build more rugby pitches in Georgia?
First of all I must underline that this initiative serves a global mission. In the first place, this project aims to contribute to the World Rugby’s strategic goals by promoting a healthy lifestyle and offering the younger generation more access to sports facilities that are much needed all over the world, as well as the popularisation of rugby and increasing competitiveness of our game internationally.
To implement this large infrastructure project, we studied the specifics of different regions of Georgia, such as availability of land, demography, density of the population, etc. Then we have tailored the design of the projects for sports infrastructure based on findings, technical parameters (eg seating capacity, number of facilities, pitch surface) and actual needs of the different sites.
How many rugby pitches are there currently in Georgia?
Currently, there are three high-performance centers, 13 training bases and 27 rugby pitches across the country.
This programme started as an unprecedented initiative by Georgia’s former Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and his international charitable foundation, CARTU, in which Mr Ivanishvili has invested more than US$100m. These actions were highly appreciated by World Rugby and Mr Ivanishvili received the Development Award in 2014 as an acknowledgement of his contribution to developing of the game globally.
How much impact will the new pitches have on growing rugby in Georgia?
The impact of the new pitches on rugby development will be significant. Rugby – its team spirit and individual commitment, physicality and intellectualism, fighting spirit and tactical skills – are very close to our history and genetic code.
These increased efforts and our close connection to rugby will help us to make an important impact globally. We expect this programme to facilitate access to sports infrastructure for kids and teenagers across the country, thus contributing to sharp, threefold growth of participation numbers.
I think that our initiative and the firm support of the Georgian government will also serve as a positive example to other countries to develop rugby and promote a healthy lifestyle on a national scale.
Is rugby the number one sport in Georgia?
There are many successful sports in Georgia, which is proven by eight Olympic medals that Georgia earned this year – an unprecedented gain for such a small country.
Yet we believe that among the team sports, rugby is the most successful in Georgia having competed at each World Cup competition since 2003.
What other plans are there to develop rugby?
Since my election in March 2021, we took some important steps aimed at the development of rugby in Georgia.
The first reform we carried out was a complete overhaul of the union’s byelaws and the election of a new board, which now has a balanced composition of successful rugby and business managers, statesmen and stars of Georgian rugby, such as Mamuka Gorgodze and Davit Kacharava.
We’ve introduced a new, professional organisational structure, signed several important sponsorship deals, updated domestic championship rules and regulations to enhance the quality of the tournament and raised player welfare standards by launching new insurance and medical services accessible to the whole domestic rugby community.
We’ve also established the first-ever Georgian franchise team, ‘Black Lion’, to compete in the Rugby Europe Super Cup and are working hard to get more games against Tier One opposition in order to increase our performance levels and competitiveness.
Our next big steps are to introduce rugby in all schools and universities across the country. We plan to invite high-level foreign rugby specialists to contribute to the development of our high-performance programmes as well as youth, community and university rugby.
How important is the Black Lion team in the Rugby Europe Super Cup to the growth of rugby in Georgia?
Black Lion is probably a cornerstone of our future success, a missing piece in our puzzle. It will give us an opportunity to get a lot of our national team players in one team and consistently play at a high, competitive level.
Its existence is important not only for Georgian rugby but also for Rugby Europe and World Rugby because it aims to increase the competitiveness of Georgia internationally.
What is the ultimate goal of the Georgian Rugby Union?
Upon successful implementation of these plans, to gain a stable position in the top ten of the World Rugby Rankings, and afterwards, who knows…
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