As part of a wider Greater Manchester scheme, Manchester Rangers Community Foundation (MRCF) have partnered with The RFL, Salford Red Devils Foundation, Warrington Wolves Foundation, Swinton Lions and Rochdale Hornets to drastically increase community Rugby League participation across Manchester and the wider area.
MRCF will focus delivery in Tameside, North Manchester, East Manchester and South Manchester to not only support existing clubs, but create new clubs and opportunities for young people and adults to play Rugby League in their local area. This vision will see the creation of new Rugby League clubs in Tameside and Wythenshawe as early as this spring, with other clubs to follow within target regions.
The plans include a wide reaching Primary and Secondary delivery programme, school festival competitions, open access regional squads and a tailor made community season. A shortened league season will be offered to new clubs, where participation is the focus, to introduce new players to Rugby League at a development entry level. These seasons will include development days, festival based fixtures and full friendly fixtures.
MRCF Foundation Manager, Matt Valentine, spoke about the need for this within Manchester and the wider areas;
“Manchester is an area which can be a key development region for Rugby League,” he said.
“As the area is a non-traditional heartland, there is often a battle against other sporting commitments in order to engage young people within community clubs.
“The league system has been developed in order to allow potential participants the opportunity to play Rugby League without the reuqirement of committing to a season spanning from February to October.
“When developing Rugby League it’s important that we don’t fall into the mindset of one shape fits all. What works in traditional areas isn’t necessarily the best way forward for Manchester and other fledgling areas. This programme has been specially tailored from the target areas all the way through to the community playing season so that it fits Manchester and the people of Manchester.”
Alongside all new delivery is the continued support of established club Belle Vue Bees ARLFC. Formed in 2016, Belle Vue Bees, based in Gorton, are an example of what can be acheived in Manchester with a large playing squad enjoying playing Rugby League, many of whom won’t have touched a Rugby ball before being engaged in schools delivery. With one team competing within North West Counties and a further two teams entering into the Manchester Development structure in 2020, the future appears bright for Rugby League in Manchester.
A full time development officer has been put in place to oversee the bulk of delivery. Henry Davies, a current Salford Red Devils reservist and former Manchester Ranger, will be working across the target areas bringing Rugby League to the masses of Manchester. Originally from Cheltenham, Henry is very familar with what it takes to develop Rugby League in non-traditional areas and is a success story of such development.
An open forum will be held on Saturday 15th February at 10am for anyone with an interest in developing Rugby League. The forum is open invite and attendance can be confirmed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.