These are such challenging times for everyone, but from my privileged position working with the Community Game for the RFL, it’s been truly uplifting to see Rugby League people pulling together.
We’ve seen that with the fund-raising support for Rob Burrow and Mose Masoe in recent weeks – and we will see it again with the work of Rugby League Cares around the 2.6 Challenge this weekend.
RL Cares have also been working with RLWC2021 and our Development and Community staff at the RFL on Rugby League United, focusing on the importance of mental health – and we’ve also come up with a number of initiatives to encourage Rugby League fans to stay active in lockdown, like #Skilltoplay, #Fittoplay and #Activeathome.
Another key priority for us at the RFL has been helping all our clubs, from Super League to Community, through the potentially bewildering range of opportunities to apply for financial support.
We offered a first webinar to Community Clubs on April 7, and were delighted when more than 60 attended.
That was our first chance to talk them through Sport England’s offer to support grassroots sport, including Rugby League, with their £195m Emergency Fund – as well as other initiatives such as the business support being made available from local councils.
We held a series of follow-up meetings this Tuesday (April 21) – all remotely again, obviously, with five separate webinars, covering the wide range of our Community Clubs and Foundations.
From Barrow Island on the west coast to Jarrow Vikings and the Newcastle Thunder Foundation in the North-East in our first webinar.
The session for clubs in Yorkshire and Humberside was especially well-attended, and was followed by another webinar specific to clubs in the North West – those sessions included a host of familiar names, from Lock Lane to Leigh East.
We then moved to the Midlands and the South, before a fifth session in the early evening offering opportunities for all clubs who had been unable to attend their specific regional session.
In each webinar, we reiterated the funding opportunities, and also went through the club healthchecks we’ve been working on from well before the current public health crisis, with an aim of ensuring that our Community Clubs are geared up for the unique opportunities presented by hosting three Rugby League World Cups in 2021.
Emma Goldsmith, the Rugby League Cares Health Programme Manager, also spoke to the clubs about the mental health initiatives I mentioned earlier, and urged them to get behind the 2.6 Challenge.
We’ve heard some encouraging news already from Sport England, with a number of clubs successful in their application for support.
Alan Davidson, our RFL Development Manager for Cumbria, has also reported on the great response from several clubs to offers of business support from their local councils – Allerdale, Copeland and Barrow.
We’re not getting carried away – we know that there are a lot of hard times ahead, for all sections of the game.
But I think there’s a growing confidence and determination that if we keep working closely together, Rugby League can emerge from this completely unique crisis with the foundations to build a bright future.