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The (Re-) Growth of Rugby in Germany

Account Director Ali has recently been spending more than a little time pitch side. In this blog, he looks at the history of rugby in Germany and shares his vision of a bright future.

Fun Fact #1
Some German rugby clubs are over 125 years old
Fun Fact #2
Many of the football clubs in Germany actually started out as rugby clubs, the German national team even got silver at the 1900 Olympics

So, what happened? Why is rugby not bigger in Germany, and what caused the clubs to opt for a more spherical ball and more nets around their goal posts?

The answer is two-fold. Firstly, World War II decimated rugby’s playing stocks and secondly, when a semi-professional football club won the 1954 World Cup, rugby’s popularity was quickly replaced and it never really recovered.

But not all hope is lost for rugby in Germany. Look at Ireland for example – 20 years ago Ireland founded its first professional rugby team, in a country where hurling and Gaelic football were the most popular sports. To date, the Irish Rugby team has won the six nations championships 14 times, and has got to the quarter finals in all but two World Cup competitions. This success has not by passed the Irish, with every win more and more supporters are following the Irish national team, to a tune of 600,000 page likes on Facebook.

From early on, Irish rugby benefited from a sponsor who was willing to support them even when rugby’s popularity was shadowed by more popular sports. But look at how it turned out, Ireland has climbed to be one of the top performing teams in the world, and Guinness now has its own rugby series with international teams competing.

The same could happen for German rugby. The team is backed by DHL, a headline sponsor that is well known across the rugby world and brings with it a significant reach. This, alongside the national team taking great shape under coach Pablo Lemoine, the former Uruguayan rugby union player and former head coach of the Uruguayan national rugby team, is certainly turning some German heads and making them think twice about the game.

The size of the crowds at home games has been snowballing as Germans start to understand not only the inclusive culture of the game, but also the thrilling yet respectful brutality of the sport. The foundations of international fame and a DHL cup are being laid, all that remains is a few big wins and a sport mad nation will be hooked.

Brandwave has been helping to lay these foundations, working not only with DHL to help activate their sponsorship in Germany, but also engaging with the Bonn7s International Women’s Sevens tournament. From grassroots through to big teams, we are trying to drive awareness and excitement around the game… a personal ambition some might say, to have Twickenham sized crowds banging DHL boom sticks at future home games. While we are working away behind the scenes, all eyes are on the national team, where there’s one thing left to be said ‘AUF GEHTS DEUTSCHLAND!’.

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Ali Hammer