8th November 2019, 19:27 | rfl
As my time in Australia and New Zealand draws to a close, I wanted to take some time out and share with everyone an insight into what I have been doing to stand up for and further the interests of all tiers of the sport on the international stage. It has been a privilege and I do so on behalf of the whole sport from Super League to schools Rugby League.
It has been a very full and varied schedule of meetings, fact-finding visits, shared learning sessions alongside supporting our England Men and Women in the Downer World Cup Nines; England Wheelchair team in their historic and hugely successful Ashes tour; and the first Great Britain Rugby League Lions tour since 2006.
I have welcomed every opportunity to make the case for greater, strategic international co-operation and the opportunities we must embrace to share experience across nations for the whole sport to achieve its potential. I have made the case as strongly as possible that a clear, long-term international calendar is vital for the health and growth of the sport in home nations and worldwide. No ifs, buts or maybes.
The International Rugby League Board meeting was, as you’d expect, focused on the development of the international game and topics included broadcast arrangements for RLWC2021 and wider plans for 2025 and beyond, including global capacity for the sport and the vital importance of new markets in North America and the Middle East and Africa. The International Rugby League Congress brought together the whole sport and emphasised our interdependency. Discussion was varied and covered the potential of Nines competitions in the International calendar. Spending extended time with Peter Beattie, Greg Peters, Reon Edwards and with the new Chair of the ARLC , Peter V’landys has been very beneficial. The Commercial meeting of the IRL similarly considered the emerging picture for rights including broadcast, digital, joint ventures and different investment models and more.
In life, business and sport, there is huge value in face-to-face meetings, discussion and shared experience. Spending one on one time with leaders in the sport in particular Todd Greenberg, CEO of the NRL, and plus visiting various CEOs of NRL clubs such as Blake Solly, Andrew Hill and Cameron George has proved invaluable. As was spending time with leaders in the Maori RL community who live and breathe our sport plus with the Chair of Waikato Rugby in NZ which was also useful. A strong discussion with the head of the Rugby League Players Association has positioned the RFL front and centre of a new working group on international standardisation.
I will update club stakeholders more fully on the opportunities which came out of meetings with RLPA and the NRL, including on topics from coach education to match officials. We should also open up to supporters of the game through the media, a flavour of the wider discussions which have taken place here on all aspects of the international game.
I have also met individually with NRL Head of Football Operations and the Head of Participation and Pathways, Luke Ellis, to discuss and compare every aspect of the playing pyramid, successes and failures, and consider future directions of travel to grow our great game.
I’ve used every opportunity to further our work on all variants of the sport, including talking up PDRL and LDRL, and connecting people involved in Touch RL with each other following a meeting with the CEO of Australian Touch RL. It has been evident that we lead the way in inclusion in Rugby League and it has been superb to see the success of our Wheelchair team. They have made new fans of the sport the world over, and are looking very strong for RLWC2021. Other meetings have considered the wider social impact of our sport; look out for great news around additional funding into Foundations around the partnership with RL Cares and the charity Movember.
I have been honoured to address the England Women, Wheelchair team, England Community Lions and the Great Britain Rugby League Lions, doing so on your behalf conveying our hopes, and our pride in the players. Speaking to and presenting jerseys to all of these players has been the greatest privilege.
As important for the sport long-term has been meeting contacts and collaborating with our international partners whilst also challenging conventions and orthodoxy and driving an agenda focused on innovation and growth. Many of these contacts are well established relationships, but many also were new introductions; without exception they have been open and forthcoming on all aspects of their work and I am very grateful for their collaboration. I have stood up for our sport publicly, and behind the scenes, and will continue to stand up for Rugby League on behalf of everyone in this great sport.