Exclusive: RFL issue response to participation figures from Sport England

The Rugby Football League have released a statement to TotalRL.com accepting there are challenges at hand following participation figures which showed rugby league is the 27th most-popular sport in the country based on ages 16 and over.

An article from the Telegraph on Wednesday revealed that rugby league was behind the likes of sailing and shooting in terms of participation numbers playing the game – with a 10-year decrease of nearly 40%.

But, in response, the RFL have admitted that there is more they can do to boost participation figures.

“Despite the growth at young age groups, we recognise there are challenges in the youth and adult games,” said Sarah-Jane Gray, the RFL’s Development and Public Affairs Director.

“We are committed to working with our partners across the game to look at how coaching, environments and competition structure impact on how players stay and succeed in Rugby League.

“Encouragingly we have seen registrations at Community Clubs grow year on year since 2012 and we’ve seen an improvement in retention of players over that time, but we recognise that there is more to do. In particular, as a sport we need to deal with the reasons too many children are not transitioning to 16-18 Rugby League and beyond. We want as many young people as possible to reach their full potential in our sport in a way that’s right for them.”

However, Gray did stress that some of their figures are encouraging.

“The Rugby Football League has focused on getting children and young people to play the game in recent years and has seen good growth in this area,” she said.

“The figures from Active People are taken from a sample survey and do not take into account those under the age of 16 playing the sport. In 2016 we saw more than 80,000 children playing Rugby League through the Sky Try initiative alone and have more than 100,000 children between 14 and 16 playing the game regularly at school and community clubs.”