In the difficult early months of 2021, we all need a good news story. The Foundations Forum, hosted virtually by the RFL last week, was full of them.
Rugby League Foundations remain a relatively new development in the sport’s 125-year story. But they have been pivotal to the emergence in the last decade of exciting new teams and competitions – the Betfred Women’s Super League, the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League, and the instigation of a new England Community Lions team to play in the first Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup this autumn.
The Foundations have dovetailed brilliantly with Sky Try, the initiative launched with the game’s major broadcast partners in 2015 – and which has met its target of helping more than 700,000 children and young people enjoy the sport of Rugby League with the majority of the seventh and final year of the project to run.
Every month, every week, every day, Rugby League Foundations are delivering.
For example in the last week, the Warrington Wolves Foundation have celebrated a virtual attendance of more than 150 at Wez’s Wednesday Workout – led by Lee Westwood, whose Development role with the Foundation includes coaching the team who have now been waiting for a year to play their first match in the Women’s Super League.
Across the Pennines, the Wakefield Trinity Community Foundation are preparing for The Big Feed 2 – a rapid repeat of the initiative they launched with such success before Christmas, delivering food (and with it, a friendly face) to the old and vulnerable in their community.
Further east still, Hull FC have started 2021 with three new projects: “Positive Ambitions” to help teenagers tackle loneliness and other problems by gaining qualifications for later life; “Connected by Rugby” to encourage those struggling with loneliness in deprived areas of the city to socialise virtually; and “Change the Game” to help older teenagers build their employability skills.
There are numerous other examples, of Foundations linked to Championship and League 1 clubs as well as from the Betfred Super League.
For example Newcastle’s Thunder Community Project Thunder Community Project – Thunder Rugby, which is part of the wider Newcastle Rugby Foundation, has been instrumental in the foundation of a number of new clubs in the North-East stretching from Hexham in Northumbria through the Newcastle Magpies and down to Yarm in Teesside – attracting many more youngsters to Rugby League ahead of World Cup fixtures at St James’s Park and Middlesborough’s Riverside Stadium this autumn.
“The Foundations Forum was a chance to remind all involved that our Foundations represent the best of Rugby League – and certainly one of the most significant developments in the sport in recent years,” said Marc Lovering, the RFL’s Director of Participation and Development.
“The success of Sky Try in passing the target of helping 700,000 youngsters to enjoy Rugby League inside the last seven years is also something for the game to celebrate. It’s provided sustained funding to the game, and that has allowed new and established Foundations to grow, to consolidate, and to better serve their communities.
“It’s meant a growth in our playing population and in some areas, we have seen Foundations play a key role in reshaping the playing offers placing a greater emphasis on player development.
“With the Sky Try Programme coming to an end, the Foundations have worked hard to diversify into other areas increasing their positive social impact programmes and engaging with those groups within our communities so often left behind.
“And the Foundations link Sky Try to so many other exciting developments in the game, such as PDRL, LDRL and the Betfred Women’s Super League. The progress has inevitably been interrupted by the events of the last 12 months. But that’s allowed the Foundations to underline the value they provide to their communities – another reason why they have been such an important development for the sport and why we will continue to support the vital work they do.”
Rugby League Foundations, 2021:
West Cumbria Foundation