Scrum down: World Rugby Cup tackles global hunger for UN
In the latest partnership between world sports events and United Nations humanitarian operations, the International Rugby Board (IRB) today dedicated the Rugby World Cup 2007 beginning in France this month to “Tackle Hunger,” a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of 850 million hungry people around the planet.
“The huge numbers of people attending matches and watching rugby on television over the next few weeks make the Rugby World Cup an incredibly powerful platform for informing a broad audience about global hunger,” John M. Powell, Deputy Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the IRB’s humanitarian partner, said of the campaign which will feature public service messages in broadcast and print media.
“By tapping into this global fan base through the Tackle Hunger campaign, WFP has been able to increase understanding about its work helping millions of hungry people in the poorest parts of the world.”
The Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup. More than 2 million tickets have been sold for the event, and a television audience estimated at 4 billion people is expected to tune in during the six week course of the tournament from 7 September to 20 October.
The “Tackle Hunger” partnership was launched at the Rugby World Cup 2003 in Australia, where it was supported by former world cup winning captains, including Nick Farr-Jones and John Eales from Australia, and David Kirk from New Zealand. In his role as a key member of the “Tackle Hunger” team, Mr. Farr-Jones has visited WFP projects in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2005, he toured Banda Aceh province in Indonesia after it was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami.
“The World Food Programme has been the humanitarian partner of the IRB for four years and together we have developed the Tackle Hunger programme that assists WFP to communicate the important work it does for the global community,” IRB Chairman Syd Millar said. “Rugby is proud of its traditions and sense of fair play and it is fitting
that we should support such a worthy cause.”
French national team coach, Bernard Laporte, will play a key role in promoting “Tackle Hunger” during the Cup. He is featured in a series of television and print advertisements conceived to raise awareness about global hunger. These are appearing for the duration
of the tournament on French and international television channels, and will also be placed in newspapers and magazines.
The IRB itself staged a fundraising match at Twickenham, England, in 2005 between teams of international players from northern and southern hemisphere. It raised more than $3 million that was donated towards WFP’s relief and reconstruction work in areas hit by the Asian tsunami.
The dedication of Rugby World Cup 2007 to “Tackle Hunger” completes a “hat-trick” of sporting dedications to WFP this year. In April, the world marathon record holder and WFP Hunger Ambassador Paul Tergat dedicated his race in the Flora London Marathon to WFP. In May, AC Milan footballer Kaka, another WFP Ambassador, dedicated his appearance in the UEFA Champions League Final to the cause of hungry children.
Other sporting events also contribute to the UN’s humanitarian mission. Earlier this year the cricket World Cup in the West Indies teamed up with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a campaign focusing on issues facing children and young people affected by the disease and the resources and actions needed to address them.
These campaigns are but the latest in a whole series of collaboration between UN agencies and world sport, which has seen the likes of football legends Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane shooting against poverty, the European Swimming League in “a race against time” to prevent deaths from unclean water, and similar initiatives with American football stars, marathon runners and Formula One auto racers.