Beyond Rugby: To come back stronger

October 25, 2015

Populous were proud to be an official sponsor of the Beyond Rugby conference at City Hall on Monday, 19th October, part of a week of Beyond Sport events around London. The conference brought together some of the leading thinkers and charities in the world of rugby and development, from inner city rugby charities, to international team representatives and business leaders, all focusing on using rugby as a catalyst for social change.

Here, Populous Principal Francois Clement talks us through his presentation at the conference, entitled ‘To Come Back Stronger’, which concentrated on the importance of creating safe spaces to play the game.

Whenever we are looking at a new stadium design, of course there are many questions that we need to look at and answer. But one fundamental one is, ‘can we design a place that improves people’s lives?’ Of course, this is often on a grand scale with national and professional team stadia, but the same ethos can also work on much smaller scales within the sport of rugby, involving the local community.

There are three sorts of places that we think about when thinking about locations for great sporting events: the inner city, and the urban environment; the ‘outback’, and rural areas with less developed infrastructure; and finally, the compound, or enclosed environments and spaces. What is common to all of these environments, I think, is the way in which the game of rugby and the culture that surrounds it can act as a shelter to everyone, from whatever background they come from.

We saw at Beyond Rugby some of the great work that is being done with young people, the disadvantaged, homeless people and people with disabilities; all being shown not what they can’t do, but what they are able to achieve, through rugby. Our challenge as designers is to recreate these metaphorical ‘shelters’ that enrich people’s lives in the physical realm.



Of course, a large stadium is just not feasible or practical for grassroots rugby. But there are many ways that we as designers can help to think about these places, and to create sustainable and affordable shelters that suit any environment, and can be contextualised to a local site.

From prefab buildings to aeroplane fuselages, there will be many opportunities to reuse and recycle elements from the world around us, to ensure that clubs and teams have the safe spaces they need to inspire and empower people before, importantly, they go back to their communities to pass back these messages. The platform to ‘come back stronger’, I think, is one of the greatest qualities of this great game.

The work has already been started, as we saw at Beyond Rugby, but, as designers, we’re really excited about the opportunities that lay ahead, and look forward to thinking through these possibilities with the Beyond Rugby community.


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