As part of its new Strategic Plan, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) has committed to work with variants of the sport of wheelchair rugby, with the aim of bringing them under IWRF governance.
In recent years there has been increasing activity in wheelchair rugby variants. These include versions of able-bodied rugby union designed for players in wheelchairs, as well as variants based on IWRF rules but open to a wider range of persons with disabilities. Examples include wheelchair sevens, a version of seven-a-side rugby union, and open class wheelchair rugby, which includes athletes with paraplegia and lower limb disabilities, seen at the 2014 Invictus Games in London, Great Britain. These have been developed by IWRF members and other grassroots organisations, but are currently outside IWRF governance.
In response, IWRF will embrace the development of wheelchair rugby variants. This decision was taken in consideration of the growing demand for opportunities to play wheelchair rugby by persons currently not eligible to participate, and of IWRF's core value of inclusiveness.
"We define the wheelchair rugby family as open and welcoming to all who share our values," said IWRF CEO Eron Main. "We should work to provide opportunities for everyone who wants to be involved. This includes variants of our sport."
As a first step, IWRF will reach out to those practicing variants of wheelchair rugby and establish a working group to bring them into the IWRF family. They will be encouraged to continue to develop and practice their sports during this process, and where possible IWRF will provide advice and assistance.
"The decision to work with wheelchair rugby variants is the best one for our sport and for IWRF. The increased appetite for variants is a direct reflection of the success we have had developing and promoting our core sport," said Main. "By including even more athletes and supporters with a passion for wheelchair rugby in all its forms, IWRF will become even stronger, and closer to our vision of being the world leader in wheelchair sport."