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# behind closed doors
How many people to deliver a game of rugby? World Rugby reckons 167
The governing body has published a list of the minimum number of stakeholders required.

LAST UPDATE | May 6th 2020, 12:02 PM

HOW MANY PEOPLE does it take to play a rugby match? The answer seems obvious but when it comes to a professional game, things naturally get a little more bloated.

Whenever we get to see a game of rugby again, it’s going to be on TV unless we’re one of the people working at the match itself.

Games behind closed doors are going to be a reality at first and we simply don’t know when crowds will be back in stadiums. That will come down to government decision-making, but World Rugby has warned that it is unlikely to happen until there is a Covid-19 vaccine.

majella-smyth Dan Sheridan / INPHO The Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Convincing governments that running games behind closed doors is safe is the first step for rugby authorities and, with that in mind, World Rugby has estimated the minimum ‘stakeholders’ required to deliver a match in the governing body’s new ‘Safe Return to Rugby’ document.

World Rugby reckon you need a minimum of 167 people. Who exactly makes up that number?

15 players from the home team. 

15 players from the away team.

11 home team subs and ‘bench support’. So that’s eight replacement players and three staff to support those on the bench – presumably managing the substitutions and providing gear to players who have come off. 

11 away team subs and ‘bench support’. Already, you’re wondering if a team could manage with less of the bench support but World Rugby believes in their importance for a smoothly-run game.

home team travelling reserves. Some will wonder if they’re necessary but any injuries or illnesses during the warm-up could mean one of the teams going into the match with fewer than 23 players, therefore creating player welfare issues.

away team travelling reserves. 

home team roving doctor. Obviously essential. 

away team roving doctor. 

home team roving physio. Again, absolutely necessary to ensure all injured players can be attended to.

away team roving physio.

home team ‘technical box (water carriers)’. They help keep players hydrated and also deliver coaching messages.

away team ‘technical box (water carriers)’.  

home team coaches box. As we know, most teams have large staffs of coaches and analysts. We could argue that some of them aren’t really required on the day but the reality is that they all feed into the product we watch. 

away team coaches box.  

match day doctor. This independent doctor is obviously crucial when it comes to possible concussions and dealing with injuries. 

immediate care lead. The safety of players is obviously priority number one when it comes to delivering a game.

medical room video viewer. Again, an essential part of the concussion process, this person reviews clips in a bid to identify concussive blows.

paramedics. We would always hope to avoid serious injuries but the paramedics are standing by just in case. 

 other medical specialists. Again, the importance of player welfare is being underlined here. 

medical room video operator. The person who rewinds, pauses, and fast-forwards the medical review video system.  

security guards. It’s unclear whether more would be required outside the stadium in case supporters did turn up.  

referee. You can’t have a game without this person. 

assistant referees. We couldn’t ask a sub from each of the two teams to run the lines, could we?

side-line referees, time-keeper, statistics and communications. They might seem like small jobs but someone has to ensure substitutions are being done correctly, the actual game clock is accurate to the second, and there are stats available for supporters.

television match official. Vital for a good TV product and fairer calls.

citing commissioner. Again, a standard part of any match day.

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ball team and ball team supervisor. It might seem like something that could be done without but imagine the frustration of repeatedly waiting for a ball to be found for lineouts and restarts. 

match manager. Another of those whose work is usually ‘unseen’.

match director. 

10 administration. There’s plenty of organization and paperwork involved in a matchday, obviously, and World Rugby believes this is something that needs to be taken care at the venue.

20 broadcaster pitch-side crew (camerapeople, line runners, floor manager). Arguably as important as the players because without them we wouldn’t be able to watch games.

commentators. This is presumably to account for TV and radio. 

15 outside broadcasting van. Again, crucial people in allowing us to watch along on TV. Seeing how these people operate in the cramped confines of vans just outside the stadium is mindblowing.

stadium operations. Opening up the stadium, getting the pitch read, and bringing people to the right places with minimum delay.

big screen and PA announcer. Keeping track of the time and score, as well as announcing replacements, is part of the match-day experience even for those watching at home, while also announcing any important welfare updates.


So that all makes up the 167 minimum stakeholders that World Rugby estimates as being required to deliver a match.

Who’s missing? The obvious one that jumps out is anti-doping officials to carry out random post-match testing on players.

There’s no room for journalists either, so post-match press conferences would seemingly be done virtually or not at all.

Some will make the case that several of the stakeholders on the list above aren’t necessary but World Rugby is well accustomed to running top-level rugby games and clearly believes they are.

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