Culture Secretary to make Cup draw as government provides £16.7 million loan

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is set to visit Victoria Park in Warrington on Monday (29 Mar), where he will join the Year 8 girls of Cardinal Newman High School, who will be the first team in the country to get back into organised outdoor team sport through a pre-school training session with the Warrington Wolves Foundation.

It comes ahead of a major year for Rugby League. The Culture Secretary will make the draw for the third round of the Betfred Challenge Cup today and it will be broadcast on BBC Sport and iPlayer from 9.35am.

The Super League clubs will enter the draw today and two third round ties will be shown live by the BBC on Saturday April 10.

The Culture Secretary will also announce an additional £16.7 million in loan support to protect Rugby League, through the winter phase of the Government’s Sport Survival Package. This follows the Government stepping in with £16 million in emergency support last year.

The initiative is part of the government’s proposal to urge the country to get out and get active as outdoor sports, clubs and facilities reopen from Monday.

Sports facilities including football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools, golf courses and sailing clubs can now reopen safely, and organised outdoor team sports can also resume, meaning that sports competitions of all ages and skill levels can restart ahead of the Easter holiday break.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I know how much people have missed the camaraderie and competition of organised sport, and how difficult it has been to restrict physical activities – especially for children.

“So as teams return to outdoor pitches, courts, parks and fields, I hope today will kick-start a Great British summer of sport – with people of all ages reunited with team-mates, and able to resume the activities they love.

Jodie Cunningham, St Helens and England Women Rugby League player, is happy to see the lockdown end for grassroots sport.

“The return of grassroots sport is a fantastic moment for everyone who loves sport, and the positive impact it makes on people’s lives,” she said.

“I know the girls from my old school, Cardinal Newman, will be really excited to use these brilliant new facilities at Victoria Park – and there will be so many others of all ages in our Rugby League communities who can’t wait to get back doing what they love.”

Ralph Rimmer, CEO, The RFL said: “We are very grateful to Government and Sport England for their ongoing practical support to Rugby League – they are key partners to the sport.

“Lockdowns and restrictions have meant a two-season impact in Rugby League, with professional and community clubs having had virtually no revenues from spectators for the entirety of the 2020 season and the first half of this season.

“We are excited to be back at all levels with clubs delivering outstanding sporting entertainment as well as a huge range of vital activities and services in often hard-pressed communities, all of which supports the national recovery.

“This further loan support of £16.7 million for the men’s professional tiers builds on the £16 million loan secured last year. The £1.45 million grant aid for community clubs, plus the £300k from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund for clubs in areas of highest socio-economic deprivation, is vital support for the grassroots game as it returns. This builds on a relentless programme of work by the RFL with community clubs throughout 2020 to ensure those clubs could access around £2 million in national and local government reliefs and mitigations.

“We were also delighted (last week) to announce the new commercial partnership with The National Lottery, which focuses on Women’s Rugby League, helping to ensure that the momentum continues in this special World Cup year and beyond.

“And of course, we are grateful that Government has backed the staging of RLWC2021 and the transformational community facilities programme with £25 million of public support.”

Activities in Warrington today will see the Culture Secretary promoting RLWC2021 with help from World Cup Ambassadors Jason Robinson OBE and Jodie Cunningham, and conducting the Betfred Challenge Cup draw.

Children from Warrington will be the first team in the country to get back into organised outdoor team sport through a pre-school training session at the facility.

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