The impact of Disability Rugby League, whether in relation to aspects that can readily be measured, or through the many benefits of people simply rubbing along together with common goals, has been highlighted in the Rugby Football League’s ‘Disability Rugby League Dividend’, which was published last week.
The study, which is the third of a series into the social and/or economic impact of Rugby League, follows the 2019 Rugby League Dividend Report and last year’s ‘These Girls Can – The Wider Impacts of the Growth of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League’, with research again conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Institute of Sport.
It has been established, in the most recent report, that for every £1 invested in Wheelchair Rugby League, Learning Disability Rugby League or Physical Disability Rugby League, there is a social return of £3.39. The figures for Physical Disability Rugby League, and Learning Disability Rugby League, are even higher, at £4.10 and £3.48 respectively.
The figures for investment by players and their families, as opposed to other stakeholders such as volunteers, the RFL and sponsors, are even more remarkable, at a calculated £9.84 return for every £1 of investment.
Impressive as they may be, however, such figures tell only part of the story, as stressed in forewords to the report by Adam Hills MBE – the Australian comedian who plays PDRL for Warrington Wolves – and John Hughes of Community Integrated Care, the RFL’s social care partners who sponsor the Learning Disability Super League.
Hills said: “From a personal perspective I’ve seen Physical Disability Rugby League improve people’s physical and mental health, provide a community for people who may not have one, and give people with physical disabilities the chance to experience some things that able-bodied people often take for granted.
“The report offers facts and figures, tallies and graphs. But every single person that plays Disability Rugby League – whether it be Physical Disability, Learning Disability, or the Wheelchair game – has a story like mine. A story of an improved quality of life, of a happier disposition, of better health. For people with disabilities, sport is like a public building. All we ask is for a way to get in.”
Hughes added: “It was an educated experiment when Community Integrated Care first invested in Rugby League. It, frankly, isn’t what care providers normally do. As a charity, it is so important that we use our resources responsibly to achieve an impact, and I felt that we could do that in Rugby League, because of the values it upholds.
“I could never have imagined quite how big things could get. Right now, though, all I can see is possibilities. This publication is the opening chapter of what we will achieve together, not the final volume.”
The report provides figures under four headings: Increased Confidence and Self-Esteem; Physical and Mental Well-Being; Expanding Social Circles and Connecting Families and Perception of Disability.
Of the players surveyed, 82 percent reported improved self-confidence due to their participation in Rugby League, 91 percent said their life had improved, 90 percent stated that they have achieved things they never previously thought possible before playing Disability Rugby League, demonstrating that the sport provides opportunities to achieve goals, however big or small, 88 percent of PDRL players and 92 percent of Wheelchair RL players surveyed said they would be less active if they were not able to play Rugby League, 91 percent of Disability Rugby League players said the sport had provided new opportunities and experiences, 97 percent have made new friends through their participation, indicating the positive impact Disability Rugby League has on reducing the levels of loneliness and isolation of its players, and 88 percent of PDRL players say that playing Rugby League has changed the way they think about their disability.
Dr Nicolas Scelles, senior lecturer in sports management at Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport, said: “As the Official University Partner for Rugby League World Cup 2021, we were delighted to contribute to this important report, which evidences the difference that Rugby League makes to the way people with disabilities access sport, and to the way people think about their disability.
“Our research demonstrates how Disability Rugby League generates positive social outcomes for players with disabilities, their families, volunteers and society overall.”
Chris Godfrey, the RFL’s national inclusion manager, added: “The findings within this report are greatly significant to the future travel and growth of the Disability Variants of Rugby League.
“The figures attached within to social benefit are not only staggering, almost £13 to the pound on some metrics, but reflect just how much Rugby League holistically offers to the lives of disabled participants.
“The implications of these findings will contribute to the sustainability of the game in every way and prove, without doubt, the impact Rugby League has on one of the most underrepresented groups in the sporting landscape.
“Ultimately these findings will allow more people living with disabilities an opportunity to improve their lives through Rugby League participation.”
Dr Rimla Akhtar OBE, who has been a non-executive director of the RFL since 2019 and chairs the RFL’s Inclusion Board, added: “Like all sports, Rugby League has been and remains on a journey in terms of ensuring that inclusion is intrinsic.
“The development of Disability Rugby League has been a hugely positive step in that journey in recent years, and the compilation of this report is a timely measurement of the progress that has been made, and its value in various ways.”
Ralph Rimmer, the RFL chief executive, said: “The timing of this report is neat, as we look forward to hosting the Rugby League World Cup in England.
“It will be the most inclusive in history, providing Wheelchair Rugby League with an unprecedented national platform for us to celebrate the athleticism and personal stories of the players – and now with a demonstration four-team PDRL event also included in the schedule.
“Learning Disability Rugby League also has strong links to the World Cup, through Community Integrated Care’s Inclusive Volunteering Programme supported by Sport England – and one of the most memorable occasions so far in 2022 came at the St Helens community club Portico Vine, when a number of LDRL stars took the stage at one of the superb new facilities funded by the World Cup’s CreatedBy programme to explain how Rugby League had transformed and enriched their lives.”
He concluded: “I defy anyone not to be inspired by reading the Disability Rugby League Dividend, whether a quick flick or a detailed study. And as John Hughes says in his foreword, the most exciting thing is that this is just the start.”
An Oulton Select side will take on a Hunslet Select team, comprising players from neighbouring National Conference League outfits Hunslet Club Parkside and Hunslet Warriors, at Raiders Park on Sunday.
The match, which will kick-off at 1.30pm, has been organised by long-serving Oulton player James Cruickshank in aid of the Children with Cancer UK charity.
It will be preceded by junior curtain-raisers while the day will also include appearances by special guests, a charity auction, music, food and drinks, with Michael ‘Braddy’ Bradshaw acting as compere.
Oulton are likely to include former players such as Sasch Brook, Carlos Sanchez and Andy Tate, together with veteran Andy Williamson, while Jamie Fields, Craig McShane and Jack McShane are among those lined up for Hunslet.
It’s just the latest initiative lined up by Crucky, who ran 280km in 28 days back in March, has completed both the Leeds and Manchester half-marathons, and is already in training for the forthcoming London Marathon. His motivation is that a workmate’s niece was born with cancer, which she managed to beat as a baby. Happily, she will be running out on the day.
An Oulton spokesperson said: “James has always been a fully committed player and his approach to his marathon training and fundraising is no different. He has been training hard all year for the run and doing as much fundraising as he can – even postponing his 30th birthday celebration until after the event to be in tip-top shape on race day.
“We’re delighted to support him by hosting the big fundraiser for a great cause, the two sides are stacked out with quality and some well-known names, some of whom are coming out of retirement. It’s set to be a great day and we’d encourage as many people as possible to head down to Raider Park to support James’ fundraising and to enjoy the game.”
Donations can be made by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-cruickshank5
The open age players of Spring View came together on the penultimate Saturday of July to support Jack Ashton, who is laid up for several weeks after suffering a bad injury in the Wigan outfit’s recent North West Counties Men’s League fixture at Cadishead Rhinos.
Spring View official Mike Crompton told League Express: “Jack is self-employed and is unable to work because of his injury, so our head coach Adam Hesketh quickly organised a bit of a fun day at the club, with a mixed friendly involving our first and second team players on Saturday 23 July, when neither side had a game, to raise some money to help Jack along whilst he recovers.”
He said: “The game itself was a hard hitting and strong running, with neither side taking it easy despite being mates. We even had two brothers, on different teams, Chris and Liam Hand, who loved the rivalry.
“Team 2 (with yellow chest) came out 32-20 winners on a day when a total of £1400 was raised. The way everyone came together shows what makes this great sport so brilliant!”
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