Rugby League


23 Nov 2023

Wheelchair Rugby League Strategy Group Statement: Integrity of the Game

Wheelchair Rugby League Strategy Group Statement: Integrity of the Game

The body responsible for directing Wheelchair Rugby League strategy in England today reiterates its support for the inclusion of non-disabled athletes alongside disabled ones. 

We are very much looking forward to seeing the England team travel to Marseille on 25 November as they attempt to wrest back the Keilty-Fassolette Trophy from France.

If the match is anything like the nations’ recent encounter in Leeds and at last year’s Wheelchair World Cup Final, then those watching are in for a treat.

The sport is clearly riding the crest of a wave at the moment. Participation, viewing and attendance figures are at an all-time high and we believe that the predominant reason for that success is the spectacle created at elite level under the current rules, which is thrilling audiences and broadcasters.

Much of the expansion is due to investment from the Rugby Football League and Rugby League World Cup 2021 ‘Created By” legacy programme, which has provided hundreds of chairs to enable newcomers to try their hand at what they see their newfound heroes do.

Wheelchair Rugby League is totally inclusive, enshrining its original principles of offering the opportunity to play for everyone, no one is prevented from giving the sport a try and seeing how far they can reach.

In our opinion, the premise that being non-disabled brings automatic playing advantages over disabled athletes, which some are currently proffering, is wrong.  

In 2017, a decision was made to remove the use of the terms ‘AB’ and ‘D’ (Able Bodied and Disabled) from the vocabulary of the National Performance Squad (NPS).  

We firmly believe that people with a disability suffer significant stigma. Those selected for the NPS are simply England players.   

Classifying players with numbers or labels like ‘permanent wheelchair user’ (PWU) reinforces such discrimination. The premise that all PWUs are somehow equal is not valid either.   

We recognise that every sport evolves as a natural process. Players and coaches strive to innovate, improve and gain an advantage, and rules are often adjusted to take that into account.  

England have complied with the independent Laws of the Game and Competition Rules as they have stood at any point in time and always will.   

The national coaching staff will continue to include players who achieve the relevant standards, make the appropriate sacrifices and earn the right to wear the jersey, and will select a squad that gives maximum flexibility within the allotted permutations.

Integrity is critical to everything we do.