Rugby League


4 Apr 2024

Jamie Jones-Buchanan to chair Rugby League’s new-look Inclusion Board

Jamie Jones-Buchanan to chair Rugby League’s new-look Inclusion Board

Jamie Jones-Buchanan is today confirmed as the new chair of Rugby League’s Inclusion Board, the forum set up in 2021 to work alongside and challenge the RFL Executive and Board in the creation and delivery of the game’s TACKLE IT action plan.   

Board members are drawn from wide-ranging backgrounds, and the Leeds Rhinos legend joins existing members such as Bradford Bulls’ Michael Lawrence and new faces including Heather Robinson from Salford Red Devils Foundation.  

Collectively board members oversee progress against TACKLE IT, the ambitious and far-reaching action plan to make Rugby League a truly inclusive sport by tackling discrimination and breaking down any barriers to involvement. Like the board membership, the plan itself has also been refreshed and refocused in key areas – a reflection both of progress since 2021 and work still to be done. 

Jamie Jones-Buchanan succeeds Rimla Akhtar, who steps down after four years in the role having steered the inception and evolution on the TACKLE IT plan. Jamie sits on the RFL Board in an observer capacity, and is Director of Culture, Diversity and Inclusivity at Leeds Rhinos. During an illustrious playing career, he represented England and was part of the Rhinos’ trophy-laden ‘golden generation’. 

Inclusion Board chair Jamie Jones-Buchanan says:   “It’s a huge pleasure to have the opportunity to continue serving the game in this new role. My driving passion each day is to pay that gift forward and play a small part in making Rugby League as inclusive and accessible as possible to all.  

“I have a deep gratitude for the gift of opportunity that the game has given me to fulfil many of boyhood dreams and realise some of my potential. I’m not short of passion, but I have a great deal to learn and I very much look forward to learning the insight and experiences of my fellow board members.”  

Inclusion Board members 

  • Jamie Jones-Buchanan – Chair  
  • Debbie Bullock – Wellbeing Lead and long-time Rugby League supporter 
  • James Child – former professional Rugby League match official who refereed more than 300 Super League games, Challenge Cup finals and Super League Grand Finals, and officiated at four consecutive world cups 
  • Dan Clarke – Head of Ticketing & Supporter Services at Edgbaston Stadium, and a passionate champion of welcoming sports stadia with access for all  
  • Kelsey Gentles – England and York Valkyrie Rugby League player who works with children with special educational needs (SEN) 
  • Chris Gibbons – inclusion and anti-discrimination consultant who works predominantly in the professional and grassroots football industries across the UK, Europe and North America 
  • John Hughes – Director of Partnerships and Communities at Community Integrated Care, one of Britain’s biggest charities and Official Social Care Partner of the RFL  
  • Michael Lawrence – Jamaica and Bradford Bulls player who also teaches sport and PE at New College, Bradford 
  • Heather Robinson – a passionate Rugby League fan and active coach who also chairs EveryBodyMoves, an advisory board working with Paralympics GB to drive participation in sport amongst disabled people 

Rugby League’s TACKLE IT outlines three strategic commitments as part of the overarching goal to widen the reach and impact of Rugby League. 

  • Diversify Rugby League’s talent pool and workforce.   
  • Improve the culture of Rugby League.  
  • Clarify processes, instil confidence in – and encourage – the reporting of discrimination, and ensure appropriate sanctions are in place.