How many members does RFU have?

The Rugby Football Union is the governing body in England and it is the largest rugby society in the world. It is a members made union not owned by one person. 

How many members does RFU have? In total, the RFU is estimated to have around 2.5 million members which are split between the over 2000 rugby clubs that the union represents. 

Many people think about the Rugby Football Union as just taking care of the top level of English rugby, but it actually covers millions of members. The RFU also represents clubs at a grassroots level, going all the way up to the professional game. The RFU also represents the women’s side of the game as well as the sevens game. 

It is difficult to estimate exactly how many members there are in the RFU. The figure of 2.5 million comes from the players and other staff involved in over 2000 rugby clubs that are in member clubs of the RFU. Rugby participation numbers can be difficult to accurately estimate and so these numbers may have changed from the time of writing. 

Some people may get this figure confused with the members on the RFU council. The RFU council is supposed to represent all of the members of the RFU and is integral in the information process that helps the RFU make decisions. 

How many members are there in the RFU council? 

Rugby fans may not have heard of the RFU council despite it being crucial to the way that rugby is governed in England. In total, the RFU council is made up of 62 members who are drawn from different backgrounds in order to give a variety of opinions. 

These members have been put into the council to represent the rugby clubs in their local area. Members will usually be split by county, but there are some cases where there are so many rugby clubs in a county that there may be multiple representatives in the council.

These representatives will often be former players, with Louise Latter the representative for women’s and girls rugby previously playing for Harlequins, Wasps, Middlesex and South East Counties. 

How many Rugby clubs in the RFU? 

The last time that the statistics were collected, there were 2,099 rugby clubs in England. As all of these clubs play in England, they are part of the Rugby Football Union, no matter whether they play at the professional level or they play grassroots rugby. All of these clubs will count as member clubs within the RFU. 

What is the structure of the RFU? 

Being the governing body of the rugby union in England, the RFU needs to have a solid structure so that decisions can be made accurately and quickly. The structure of the RFU begins at the top, with the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, being the royal patron of the RFU, a role with little responsibility. 

Nigel Gillingham is the President of the RFU for the 2022/23 season, while Tom Ilube is the Chair of the Board of Directors. The board of directors is the highest level of the structure. 

RFU Board of Directors

The RFU board of directors are at the top of the structure. These are the people who make the decisions within the RFU and move the RFU in the direction that they think is best for the union. The board of directors will also plan the annual budget, deciding where the money is going to go. 

The board is made up of different executives and representatives of rugby. Bill Sweeney is often the person you here from, speaking as the representative of the RFU. Sweeny is the Chief Executive Officer of the RFU which means he represents the union in World Rugby as well as in the Six Nations and British and Irish Lions. 

This board of directors also features Conor O’Shea, who is known for being Harlequins’ Director of Rugby when they won the Premiership in 2012 and the European Challenge Cup a year prior. O’Shea is the Director of Performance Rugby, meaning he is in charge of professional rugby in England, overseeing the Premiership and England national team. 

The majority of the other directors will be in for different reasons not just including their expertise in rugby. The RFU also has to manage their finances and operations which require expertise from outside of rugby. 


The RFU council is the one that makes the decisions on the rules of the game and how rugby is regulated. The council sits below the Board, but there are some board directors who also serve as council members. Each council member will represent a certain area that contains multiple rugby clubs. 

Most of the time, a council member will represent a county, but there are some counties with so many rugby clubs that multiple council members are needed to represent them. 

The council is really important to the rules of the game. When any new policy is thought to be introduced, the council are the ones who will vote to introduce these rules into the game. The council has some additional responsibilities alongside the playing governance of the game. 

The council also votes to elect board members, with the council allowed to elect up to three board members. The council also decides on policy for the distribution of international tickets for any games that at played at Twickenham. 

To get onto the council, you need to be elected by your local clubs. Some council members are elected through national bodies, as Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Player’s Association have a representative on the council. 


By far the largest part of the structure of the RFU will be the members and there are thought to be more than 2 million members of the RFU. Despite being at the bottom of the structure of the RFU, there is still a lot that the members can do. RFU members have the ability to call a special general meeting as well as having some important voting rights. 

Members can remove any non-executive board members if they get a two-thirds majority vote. Members can also ratify the appointment of non-executive board members.  

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