University Rugby League is already benefiting from a World Cup dividend – and under a new partnership between the RFL and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS), there will be a fresh focus on capitalising on the new opportunities over the coming months and years.
Thanks to RLWC2021’s CreatedBy Capital Grants Programme, 18 universities have already benefited from more than £50,000 of investment across men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams – and even though the World Cup trophies have now been won, applications can still be submitted via the RLWC2021 website.
Meanwhile, Rugby League has joined a small group of sports with their own dedicated co-ordinator at BUCS, Maz Veater, who will focus on raising the profile of the sport across the university sector and increasing participation.
“I can’t wait to get started,” says Maz, a qualified tennis and hockey coach who recently graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with an MSc in Sport Business Management. “There couldn’t be a better time to start this role, with the profile of Rugby League reaching new levels through the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup, especially the women’s and wheelchair tournaments.
“There are huge opportunities for Rugby League in the Higher Education sector, and one of my priorities will be developing women’s Rugby League, and building on the great work that has already been done in the likes of Leeds, Liverpool and of course Oxford – club of the year at the 2022 BUCS Awards.”
Oxford University Rugby League Club focused this year on increasing female participation. At the start of 2022 the club relaunched its women’s team – alongside Cambridge one of only two university women's Rugby League club in the south of England and boasting 50 members and a full committee. Oxford enjoys a partnership with the Rugby League Federation Ghana and the University of Ghana involving donations and mentoring schemes as well as a tour to the country.
Andy Gilvary, BUCS Head of Competitions and Performance, added: “The last two years have been challenging for all student sport because of the impact of COVID-19, and our statistics suggest that Rugby League has been hit especially hard.
“The positive impact of the World Cup, and the appointment of Maz as Rugby League Co-ordinator, provides the sport with a great chance to bounce back. We look forward to focussing on developing our current programme and creating an offer for women’s rugby league, in addition to exploring alternatives to the 13-a-side format, possible inclusion opportunities, enhancing the representative programme for students, and attracting additional commercial support.”
Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive – and a former England Student international himself – said: “This is such a positive development for the sport. Student Rugby League has developed its own rich and unique history, starting with the struggles of a group of Leeds University students for permission to play their preferred sport 50-odd years ago, when it had previously been forbidden.
“Since then, the first-hand experience of Rugby League at university at institutions all over the country has been the introduction to our sport for so many who have gone on to contribute significantly to it, whether as players, match officials, sponsors, supporters – or even administrators.
“It’s fantastic that some of the CreatedBy facilities funding unlocked by the World Cup has been made accessible to boost the student game, and we are hugely grateful to Andy Gilvary and his team at BUCS for supporting the appointment of Maz as the dedicated Rugby League Co-ordinator.”
There are currently 48 teams from 39 institutions competing in the BUCS men’s leagues, with Northumbria University beating Leeds Beckett at BUCS Big Wednesday 2022 to claim the National Championship title.
Anybody wanting more information about Universities Rugby League should email firstname.lastname@example.org