The Rugby Football League shares a refreshed vision, together with four strategic goals, as part of a firm and tangible commitment by the sport to inclusion, diversity, and anti-discrimination.
The RFL is leading a collaborative process with Betfred Super League; Championship and League 1; the Community Game; Foundations; Rugby League Cares and RLWC2021 to devise specific and measurable actions which will sit beneath each of these four goals:
1: To widen the reach and impact of Rugby League
2: To diversify the game’s talent pool
3: To improve the culture of Rugby League
4: To clarify processes, instil confidence in and encourage reporting of discrimination and ensure appropriate sanctions are in place
The actions and targets will be shared across the sport on October 1 – the start of Black History Month, and ahead of the Betfred Super League round 17 which will have a special focus on Black history in Rugby League.
Those actions will cover player recruitment and development; talent inclusion and progression; club development; schools programmes; coach education; officials recruitment and education; administration and governance; marketing, media and promotion; player welfare and education; community outreach and engagement; volunteer support; compliance, reporting and sanctions which enforce a zero tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination in Rugby League.
Ralph Rimmer, CEO of the RFL said:
“In recent weeks the RFL and partner organisations have stood together to demonstrate how Rugby League is a powerful force for good and can become an anti-racism campaigning sport. This is a clear focus and sits alongside our continued work on the gender balance in our sport and LGBQT and disability inclusion.
“We have also been honest and acknowledged the reality that in our 125th year, our sport is not fully representative of our communities. Whether that is on professional or community pitches, in clubhouses, on terraces, in boardrooms, in the media or in our community work. And that means the sport misses out on immense talent, passion, skills and experience, as well as opportunities to connect, learn, grow, and expand.
“This is about taking action. And developing and owning the actions together.
“The RFL will lead the process of developing specific, realistic and achievable actions and targets in conjunction with all the stakeholders in the sport. We will continue to listen to the lived experience of players, coaches, volunteers, and fans. In recent months we have listened and learned a great deal from the experience of Black players and coaches; and these listening sessions will continue.
“By becoming more diverse and standing firm against discrimination we will deliver better outcomes for the sport.”
Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE, RFL Non-Executive Director who chairs the sport’s Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Board, said:
“Rugby League’s work to tackle all forms of discrimination and ensure the game is open for all will continue with this refreshed plan, its clearly focused goals and the actions that will be developed from them.
“We want to see positive development throughout the game by addressing the injustices and many imbalances in representation in order to make our game the best it can possibly be. A vital part of this effort is the Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Board, which, under the supervision of the RFL Board, will hold the executive to account for making change happen. The RFL will work to support all its members and stakeholders in this work and will report regularly and publicly on progress.”
Craig Richards, Head Coach of England Women said:
“As a Head Coach, I welcome the vision and goals and commitment to sport-wide change. Real change needs all parts of the sport and everyone in it to listen, learn and take action on discrimination now so no talent is lost and everyone in the sport can reach their full potential.”
The RFL is committed to ensuring that Rugby League is an inclusive sport, including ensuring we remove any barriers to involvement with the sport. We have a proud history that supports this. Through our values, we are already committed to promoting diversity – supporting colleagues of different ethnicity, faiths, gender, sexual preference or who have a disability. But we must accelerate this. And to do that we will listen and learn, be honest, challenge ourselves, be transparent and most importantly, commit to specific actions to bring about this change.
We have four strategic goals to turn this vision into a reality. These are:
– Widen the reach and impact of Rugby League – we aim to build on the work already carried out to engage under-represented communities into the game and to use the power of Rugby League to create positive change in society.
– Diversify Rugby League’s Talent Pool – we recognise that there is strength in diversity and aim to ensure that our game widens the pool of talent from which it recruits.
– Improve the culture of Rugby League – we want to increase awareness of the benefits of an inclusive approach and the harmful effects of being exclusionary. We want to keep working towards building a welcoming environment for all in every area of the game.
– Clarify processes, instil confidence in and encourage reporting of discrimination and ensure appropriate sanctions are in place – Rugby League has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and unacceptable behaviour. We want to make it easier to report and instil more confidence in the processes delivering appropriate outcomes.
Specific, measurable, achievable, and authentic actions that sit under each of the goals will be developed with key stakeholders and details on all the actions will be shared openly on 1 October.
The RFL will assess progress against these goals and actions every season, as well as highlight priorities for the following season.
We are committed to all aspects of inclusion whilst recognising there are some areas which require more actions than others. We commit to these actions whilst recognising the positive work that has already been carried out over the years, understanding the learnings from carrying out that work and being driven to continuously improve.