Rugby League


5 Jul 2023

New report shows long-lasting social impact of Rugby League World Cup

New report shows long-lasting social impact of Rugby League World Cup

A new report published today has praised the significant social impact delivered off the pitch by last year’s Rugby League World Cup (RLWC2021). Pioneering a unique delivery model for social impact, UK Sport has hailed RLWC2021 as an exemplar social impact programme that will set the standard for future sporting events, using an approach that puts social impact at the heart of planning and delivery.  The report, commissioned by RLWC2021 and delivered by The Sports Consultancy and Substance, found that RLWC2021 and its social impact programmes have “demonstrated meaningful impacts for those that watched, engaged, attended and took part”. Because of the geographic footprint, and impact of the tournament’s social impact programmes, 96% of the public believe that hosting RLWC benefited the North of England. 

Led by £30 million of investment, the tournament achieved its ambition of making a positive difference in communities, in grassroots Rugby League clubs, and in the lives of people living across the country, especially in the most deprived areas of England. 

The Rugby League World Cup’s social impact programme focused on six key strands: 

  1. Creating strong communities through new community hubs, new social connections, increased civic pride and increased volunteerism 
  2. Growing the game through increased participation and interest in Rugby League 
  3. Stimulating physical activity and health 
  4. Improving mental wellbeing and increased awareness of mental fitness 
  5. Developing people through new skills and knowledge 
  6. Boosting the economy, particularly in more deprived areas and creating more financially sustainable community clubs and more commercial interest in Rugby League 

In particular, the report highlighted the positive impact that RLWC2021 had on community cohesion and how social impact programmes “brought communities together, broke down barriers, changed perceptions and gave people something to be proud of". As a trailblazing, purpose-driven tournament that put making a positive impact on people at its heart, RLWC2021 was truly pioneering in its approach to social impact. By focusing on delivering social impact prior to and during the event, rather than as a post-event legacy, 300 mental fitness workshops had been delivered to 11,922 young people, volunteers were already working with community Rugby League clubs before the tournament got underway, with the majority of facility improvement projects completed before the first kick of a ball – with the platform of the tournament itself then also used to maximise engagement with communities and deliver tangible social impact. 

  Highlights of the social impact programme include:  

  • £26.4 million of investment into communities across the country through the CreatedBy Grants Programme, delivered in partnership with the RFL, DCMS, Sport England and The National Lottery, including 31 large-scale grants and 248 small-scale grants. Of these, 52% of the capital grants were awarded to the top 30% most deprived areas, with 60% of total investment directed towards the top 30% most deprived communities 
  • Three volunteer programmes engaged more than 1,300 people in volunteering opportunities, including an accessible volunteer programme for volunteers with mental, physical and learning disabilities through a partnership with Community Integrated Care. This programme supported volunteers with mental, physical and learning disabilities and gave people valuable opportunities to learn new skills, with 95% of inclusive volunteers saying that their experience has made them want to seek out paid work or other volunteering opportunities  
  • A multi-disciplinary Cultural Festival attended by over 370,000 people in total, delivered in conjunction with Arts Council England, city partners and delivered by Pinwheel including touring public art, poetry and a programme of engagement projects rolled out across 33 Library Services 
  • 56% of the general public, including TV viewers, felt inspired to do more physical activity as a result of RLWC2021. As the most inclusive Rugby League tournament ever, the social impact programme improved accessibility to physical activity, with more than 80% of clubs in receipt of large grant recipients saying that the new and improved facilities will improve access for disabled people and women and girls  
  • Staging Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments concurrently put women and people with mental and physical disability centre stage, with 85% of spectators feeling that RLWC contributed to social inclusion by staging the three tournaments simultaneously  
  • Innovative programmes to create and support more inclusive and healthy environments, including becoming the first major sporting tournament to launch a mental fitness charter and a mental fitness programme. In partnership with Movember and Rugby League Cares 11,922 workshops were delivered to young people, parents, players and volunteers to support the development of mental fitness awareness 
  • Collaboration with local and international organisations including Movember, Community Integrated Care, Assura and UNICEF UK, enabling RLWC2021 to reach a far wider and more diverse audience than otherwise would have been possible

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said: "The UK has a strong track record of hosting the world's greatest sporting contests and the Rugby League World Cup 2021 broke the mould in terms of creating a legacy before a pass had even been thrown. "I know from my own constituency in the north what Rugby League means to people and this report shows that the tournament's £30 million social investment has truly delivered a lasting impact on communities across England." 

Dame Katherine Grainger, Chair of UK Sport, said:  "Rugby League World Cup 2021 is a shining example of the power that hosting major sporting events in this country has to change people's lives for the better. It was a privilege for us to be part of this event and to work with this fantastic team.  "The pioneering approach to social impact – embedding social impact into the tournament's DNA and focusing on impact before and during the tournament, not just afterwards - is something that we hope to see across other sporting events as we create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments.  "As we build on the legacy of Rugby League World Cup 2021, we will continue to support and celebrate the role of sport to power positive change on and off the field of play."  

Simon Johnson, RFL Chair, said: “This Report provides yet more evidence of the tremendous social impact that Rugby League delivers. Rugby League World Cup 2021 set a new benchmark for inclusivity, and how events can create lasting impact on communities. Many of the stories in this report are truly inspiring and show how the tournament will transform lives for the better.” 

Kirsten Sibbit-Johnston, Associate Director, The Sports Consultancy, said: “We have worked with a huge number of major events and been particularly impressed with RLWC2021's focus on purpose - embedding social impacts throughout, working with expert partners and delivering pre and during the tournament - which has resulted in the tournament achieving so much of what it set out to achieve. I think RLWC2021 can be used as a blueprint for others to achieve tangible, relevant social impact enhanced by sport.” 

The full report can be found here.