Earlier today, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation published their new strategic plan for 2015 to 2018 on their website. The twelve page document lists seven strategic goals based on seven strategic areas identified by the IWRF. These areas include Leadership and Governance, Financial Resources, Competition Systems, Classification, Participation, Member Services and Athlete Welfare. The IWRF has reached out to people with a vested interest in the sport to provide feedback on the document. The document was drafted during the IWRF Educational and Planning meetings in London last month.
The IWRF quotes their President John Bishop as saying of the document, “We are very pleased with the direction that the new strategic plan will lead us, and are energized by the detailed thought and input that our Board and Committee Chairs have contributed in creating this document. I am confident that the needs of our membership and sport have been addressed, and we are looking forward to upholding our core values and working together to achieve the goals stated within the plan.”
Included in the document are a list of key performance indicators, and their target date to meet them. Among these are, “Establish governance over one or more variants of the sport” with a target of 2018. Several variants of the sport already exist, including wheelchair rugby league. Some of these forms are open to people who would not be eligible to compete in the version played at the Paralympic level. To address this, the organization says in their strategic plan, “Because the IWRF is inclusive, and wants wheelchair rugby to be accessible to all who wish to play, we will engage with other variants of the sport with a goal of forming working relationships, and growing the global Wheelchair Rugby Family.”
They then to go on to quote one of the founders of the game, Duncan Campbell, as saying, ““It was inevitable that someone would eventually come up with a game which more closely resembles able bodied rugby. As they develop we need to respect their desire to play the game. The IWRF needs to be involved with these game variants for a couple of reasons. One, to help another emerging sport develop through sharing our experience, and two, to ensure the game we have developed is maintained and protected as the Paralympic Sport that it has become.”
The IWRF provided additional clarity around this issue on Facebook, saying, “There are many variants of wheelchair rugby out there and our goal is to contact each of these to learn more about their organizations and goals. In the case where one or more of these sports is looking for guidance, then the IWRF may be able to share our knowledge and experience in order to help them grow. Having all variants under one umbrella is not our objective.”
Another item found in the strategic plan is “30 countries satisfy IPC criteria for widely and regularly practicing the sport” with a target date of 2019. As this issue is currently a hot topic in the sailing community because it was cited as a reason for the sport being cut from the program, ParaSport News pinged the IWRF on Facebook for more information on this. In response, the IWRF said, “the IWRF is fully compliant with the IPC. We want to assure that this continues indefinitely, and have a great development team in place that is tasked with assisting in the introduction and growth of our sport in new and developing countries.” In their strategic plan itself, the IWRF has set a goal of getting ten new countries currently not on the world rankings list to have implemented wheelchair rugby development programs inside their borders, along with setting a goal of increasing the number of ranked countries by ten per cent.