22nd September 2020, 11:37 | rfl
It’s the ‘Great British Week of Sport’ and Rugby League is joining in this national celebration of the power of sport.
The Great British Week of Sport is focusing on the physical, mental and social wellbeing benefits of sport – all areas in which Rugby League people and communities have excelled during one of the most difficult periods in the game’s history.
Throughout 2020 – and, crucially, within the lockdown period – people of all ages and backgrounds have taken up the mental health advice and practical support on offer from organisations such as Rugby League Cares and State of Mind.
Since lockdown began, RL Cares has had more than 600 consultations with players who need help or guidance. And earlier this month the charity announced a ground-breaking partnership with Rugby League World Cup 2021 and Movember to equip the sport’s communities with the skills and techniques needed to enjoy good mental wellbeing. Building on the success of the charity’s Offload programme, ‘Ahead of the Game’ will reach 16,000 young athletes and parents, and 360 coaches.
Across the game’s heartlands, where the social impact of Rugby League amounts to £185million per year, community-based social wellbeing activities have rarely been so vital. Professional and community clubs, and foundations and personalities, have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the areas they serve. The Steve Prescott Foundation’s Martin Blondel was even declared Britain’s ‘Lockdown Community Hero’ by the Daily Telegraph.
While the community game was an early casualty of the pandemic, the Rugby Football League (RFL), clubs and players alike developed all kinds of ingenious activities and challenges to keep people active and engaged.
And although full contact Rugby League has yet to restart at the community game level thousands of people – male and female, across all age groups – are now enjoying one of the four social variations of Rugby League on offer: Touch RL; TryTag; Masters and X-League.
RFL Chief Executive, Ralph Rimmer, says:
“In this most challenging of years Rugby League has shown its true colours and exemplifies what the Great British Week of Sport is all about.
“From the way clubs, foundations and communities, and players past and present, responded to the initial shockwaves, through to right now where our leading players are making enormous sacrifices to bring Rugby League back to our TV screens, our game has shown tremendous resilience. We can all be extremely proud.
“I am really heartened too by the news that already more than six thousand people are enjoying a variation of a game we will never take for granted again.”
Eight Touch Rugby League venues are up and running, offering risk-managed Rugby League with the RFL’s support. Players can register quickly and easily online, and the number of foundations and community clubs now offering Touch Rugby League continues to grow.
The new Try Tag competitions, many of them mixed gender, are completely Covid-compliant. Bradford and Bingley is the latest area to open up registrations to whole teams, and smaller groups and individuals desperate to get their hands on a rugby ball. New Women’s leagues are also up and running in Leeds and Wigan.
Organisers of Masters Rugby League are working with the RFL on risk management and registration processes. Teams will be placed into area ‘bubbles’ and fixtures will be arranged in line with community game ‘return to play’ milestones and guidelines.
New X-League teams, operating largely from community clubs, continue to come on board, among them York City Knights Foundation. All activity is Covid-compliant and consistent with community game ‘return to play’ guidelines.