Rugby League World Cup 2021 celebrates trailblazing Social Impact Programme

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The key findings of an independent report have today unveiled the true extent of the Rugby League World Cup 2021’s trailblazing social impact programme in delivering more than £25 million of positive change in communities across England.

From its very inception in June 2018, the principle of making a real, tangible impact in areas of high deprivation has been central to the purpose of everyone associated with the RLWC2021, and today’s report showcases the scale and successes of the programmes delivered mainly across the tournament’s host towns and cities. There has been a significant focus on the North of England and in tackling inequalities through providing more opportunities for people in those communities.

The trailblazing approach towards delivering Social Impact has been the catalyst to turn an initial investment of £635,000 into an incredible total of £25.8 million, with the vast majority of the funding having been utilised before the tournament has begun.

This funding has enabled the tournament’s Social Impact Programme to be hugely ambitious in its breadth making a real difference in four key areas of:

  • Facility investment which has enabled clubs to create welcoming and inclusive environments for more of their community to enjoy
  • A Mental Fitness Programme designed to challenge the direct connection between levels of social hardship and ill health with those living in areas of high deprivation.
  • A wholly inclusive volunteering programme is engaging new people to make a contribution to the sport and wider community.
  • An International Development Programme that has developed new relationships between emerging rugby league nations and supported development programmes in international communities through soft power and diplomacy.

These findings are included in an independent report which was researched and written by The Sports Consultancy and Substance for RLWC2021. The report is an interim report based on the research collected so far, and a final report will be published after the tournament.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 Chief Executive, Jon Dutton, said:

“The RLWC2021 has always been about much more than delivering 61 world class matches across three tournaments.

“From its very inception, we set out to be a tournament with a purpose and with the objective of making a real impact in towns and cities with a Social Impact Programme created to deliver more than £25million of positive change.

“We have chosen to deliver this programme with support from the RFL, DCMS, Sport England and UK Sport, and our trailblazing work has been central to the tournament’s objectives, and that change is happening right now, with the vast majority of the funding having been utilised before the tournament has begun.

"A fundamental obstacle to social mobility is a lack of local opportunities and the ability to have access to new experiences and build self-efficacy. Our Social Impact Programme has been about creating those opportunities.

“Opportunities for people to try the sport for the first time. Opportunities for girls and women along with disabled players to get involved in rugby league. Opportunities for our volunteers to try new experiences, grow their skills and play an important role during tournament time. Opportunities for young people to learn about new cultures and improve their mental fitness.

“This interim report tells the story of a programme that has created change and delivered a positive impact, in spite of significant challenges, and delivering our ambition to leave long-lasting outcomes for diverse communities beyond the Rugby League World Cup tournament. It details the incredible power that sport has to make a difference.

“I am very proud of all that we have accomplished so far. I am incredibly excited to see what else we can deliver in the next few months and through the tournament itself.”

The strength of RLWC2021’s Social Impact Programme has been in delivering activities that have been about much more than just playing rugby league and growing participation in the sport.

Working in partnership with organisations like Movember, Community Integrated Care and UNICEF UK has been crucial in enabling RLWC2021 to reach a far wider and diverse audience than otherwise would have been possible and thereby delivering maximum returns from the Social Impact Programme.

The tournament’s CreatedBy grant funding has been the catalyst for projects to secure additional funding leading to an overall financial investment of over £21 million, delivered in partnership with the RFL. This has been transformational for rugby league and community facilities across the country with a particular focus on making the sport more accessible for disabled users and women and girls.

The CreatedBy project has seen investment in:

  • 38 clubhouses
  • 22 changing rooms
  • 18 pitches
  • 23 goalposts
  • 3 kitchens
  • 10 lawnmowers
  • 4 Gyms
  • 102 kit and equipment packs

As well as making the sport more accessible and encouraging more people to enjoy the physical benefits of playing the game, mental fitness has also been a vital component of the Social Impact Programme with RLWC2021 the first major sporting event to launch a mental fitness charter.

The tournament’s Mental Fitness partner Movember, in partnership with Rugby League Cares, has delivered their innovative ‘Ahead of the Game’ programme to thousands of young rugby league players, between the ages of 12-18, and their coaches. The programme helps participants understand their mental health and how to identify warning signs to look out for, both in themselves and others, and importantly where they can seek help. 271 workshops have been delivered to 114 community and professional clubs, schools and online, reaching 4,500 players and 400 coaches.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said:

“The Rugby League World Cup will bring an unprecedented level of rugby competition across the north as, for the first time, the world’s best men's, women's and wheelchair teams come together in one tournament.

“It will also create a lasting community legacy through its social impact programme and I welcome the overall £25 million investment supporting communities and facilities for future generations of players.”

Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport, said: “At UK Sport, we are committed to ensuring that social impact is a central pillar of all events we invest in. We believe that major sporting events have the potential to inspire and engage whole communities, and the RLWC is a great example of this. Their commitment to social impact is vital in nurturing the next generation, breaking down participation barriers, and helping ensure sport in the future is a true reflection of society.

“I want to wish all the teams the best of luck as they continue their preparations for RLWC 2021 and I look forward to seeing them in action later this year.

“The publication of this report is also a great reflection of what sport can achieve with the unwavering support we receive from The National Lottery.”

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, said:

“Everybody should feel they are able to access sport and physical activity, regardless of who they are, where they live or their background.

“The work that the RLWC2021 team have done is a great step in making this a reality. We welcome the findings of the review interim report and the positive impact this work has had in creating sporting opportunities for people in Northern England.

The full report will be available to read here at 11am on Thursday 30 June:

Posted on Thursday 30th June 2022