Sky are teaming up with the Rugby Football League to launch Sky Try, a new grassroots initiative.
The scheme's target is to get 100,000 more young people playing the game, in a seven-year plan designed to raise the sport's popularity around the country.
Nigel Wood, chief executive of Rugby Football League, told Sky Sports News HQ: "It's a programme of engagement for young people to get involved in rugby league across coaching and playing.
"We know that most people come to our sport under the age of 12 and that is an area where we have to put in some considerable investment. Thanks to our association with Sky Sports, Sky Try is going to be a wonderful initiative.
"Everybody who wants to get involved - from the five-year-olds to adults - is welcome to participate. Hopefully it can do for our sport what Sky Ride has done for cycling.
"The age when most people are playing rugby league is 14 so we have to work really hard to retain them beyond that age. We must tailor our product and tailor our offers so that rugby is about having fun; we must make sure we have a full programnme of appropriate activity for all standards and all ages."
Sky Sports rugby league experts Terry O'Connor and Phil Clarke are throwing their weight behind the new initiative and are confident it will provide a massive boost for the game.
Speaking at the launch in Widnes, O'Connor said: "It's brilliant to have some of the best players from Super League down here coaching.
"What the support teaches you about values, about work ethics - the culture within rugby league - is vital. No matter how many times you get knocked down you get back up again. That's life and rugby league has got it all.
"To have the youngsters here with the smiles on their faces is key. We must keep that community spirit going and this investment can make a big difference."
Clarke said: "The most important things in life are to be healthy and to be happy. I think Sky Try offers everybody a chance to do that, from primary to secondary school. It also offers us the chance to grow touch rugby, that is a vital component for people to enjoy the sport without the full contact side of it.
"In essence, it's about fun and friendship. It's about an opportunity for everyone to get a taste of rugby league and form some long-lasting friendships."
BARROW Raiders’ new floodlights should be ready to light up Craven Park by the end of next month.
Work on the £60,000 project began this week with an electrical survey, and preparation for the erection of the six stanchions to replace the ones taken down last September is set to begin on February 2.
The light strength is expected to exceed the minimum requirement understood to be 300 lux and there will be room on each stanchion to add extra beams if required.
Abacus, an out-of-town company, have taken on the job which will see the culmination of years of fundraising work for the Floodlight Appeal, undertaken by lottery manager John Spoor.
Raiders received an unexpected boost last year for the floodlights fund – originally set at £100,000 – when Barrow Borough Council donated four pylons from the town’s Park Leisure Centre after former director and long-time supporter Eric Wood raised the matter with them.
That saving of approximately £40,000 – plus a further £10,000 raised by appeal fundraisers – allowed work to begin.
Raiders chairman David Sharpe thanked Spoor for the tremendous contribution he has made, saying: “Congratulations to John Spoor, he’s led the team raising the money, he’s done a massive amount of work.
“We’ve had a lot of donations and events that have put money into that appeal. We have been really pleased with how it has gone.
“Basically it is costing around the £60,000-mark, of which we have the funds in place, but of course we were very fortunate that we got the four floodlights given to us and that’s been a big help.”
Sharpe said that once work gets under way it should take a couple of weeks to complete the job.
He said of the lights: “Once they are up, they should be bright enough but there is additional space on the stanchions (for extra lights) if the regulations change.
“We are delighted. We are geared up to playing the night matches, it’s very good.
“It’s going to be a good atmosphere, the night matches played on Saturdays should be excellent.
“The feedback generally from people is that they are looking forward to it.”
As well as the floodlights being erected, the Raiders Bar has been refurbished and it has proved to be popular during the past two warm-up games.
“We have just completely renovated the Raiders Bar and that has gone down really well,” said Sharpe.
“We are going to look to utilise that, have little functions through the year.
“After the two games we have had it has been absolutely packed, it has been fantastic. There has been a big response.”
Sharpe has also been impressed by the on-field performances in the two pre-season friendlies which resulted in a 42-4 win over Whitehaven last week and a 38-20 success against Keighley Cougars on Sunday.
“I think it is a big confidence-booster for the lads,” said Sharpe, who praised the coaching staff and the atmosphere shown by the fans.
“I don’t really know what happened with Whitehaven last week. I think they had a weakened team and we felt that this was going to be the big test against Keighley, they have a squad that was pretty much the same as last year, and we stood up well to the challenge.
“We are not going to get carried away, because at the end of the day they are friendlies, but there was some exciting rugby out there. Some of the tries were a delight to watch.”