15th May 2019, 10:12 | rfl

Standing up for Rugby League in Westminster, Whitehall and beyond

Standing up for Rugby League in Westminster, Whitehall and beyond

One of the key roles of the national governing body is standing up for the sport with national decision makers, policy formers and influencers. The team and I do this in a range of ways – from public campaigning and private lobbying, to partnership building. We have grown the sphere of influence of the sport and continue to work hard to do so.

Yesterday I enjoyed an opportunity to brief Mims Davies MP, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, on the work of the RFL and our member clubs and partners, as well as the upcoming World Cup. It was a wide-ranging meeting and a chance to reiterate the role that our sport plays in providing not only outstanding sporting opportunities and entertainment, but also significant, positive social impacts. On behalf of the sport, the RFL has commissioned a new report from our partners at Manchester Metropolitan University which we’ll launch this summer with the RFL President Andy Burnham – and support from the Minister - and which will help tell the story of the difference or ‘dividend’ that our sport delivers, on and off the pitch. Our ‘Rugby League Dividend’ evidence is incredibly timely as Parliament yesterday published an important report on the social impact of culture and sport in our communities.  

Mims Davies, like her predecessor Tracey Crouch MP, has a strong understanding of the wider contribution our sport makes in some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities; as well as a high regard for the performance pathway to England which develops elite athletes from state school backgrounds. She is a huge champion of women’s sport and will be active in supporting our campaign to get 21,000 girls and women playing rugby league by 2021, which is great news.

I was proud to say that rugby league cares enough to make local lives better and to highlight some of the innovative local work of the wonderful rugby league Foundations in areas including mental health, education and disability sport. Ms Davies has responsibility for Civil Society and is interested in the role that major sports like ours play in encouraging and supporting volunteering, and in adding to the sense of place and community pride we feel through our connection to our sports clubs. As well as the unique way that sport can help address societal challenges such as isolation. 

As you’ll have seen, our colleagues at RLWC2021 are doing an amazing job of spreading the word about the world’s biggest sporting team tournament in 2021, and the most inclusive World Cup ever; and the Minister and her team are strong supporters. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has backed RLWC2021 with the multi-million-pound investment in our grassroots facilities. The awarding of grants is underway. This means a living legacy for our sport, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for community clubs to use the CreatedBy RLWC2021funding to improve facilities and develop welcoming environments and more playing opportunities ready for our home World Cup. If you’re involved in a club or know someone who is, please encourage applications. 

Whether it’s promoting the 30+% growth in Women’s RL; Disability RL giving more people the chance to play our great game; or celebrating one of the nation’s best sporting competitions, The Challenge Cup, it’s a privilege to stand up for the sport in Westminster, Whitehall and beyond.