A recurring theme in details of last Tuesday’s Club Webinar meeting, in which the Rugby Football League strove to answer concerns posed by amateur administrators, coaches and players regarding the planned club membership scheme, which is to be introduced next year, was the issue of players or parents of players, who do not (or who cannot afford to) pay.
The RFL’s Head of Delivery (Community Game Competitions) Kelly Barrett forwarded details of the question and answer session to clubs on Friday. And, in confirming that such players would not be registered, she said: “However we would hope this wouldn’t happen. We will work with clubs to find ways to help any parent that is struggling to pay.
“The RFL will work in partnership with the Community Board and clubs to make sure that people who genuinely can’t afford this membership will be able to continue to play. We have reduced the fee initially proposed for younger players to reflect the fact that some families may have more than one child playing.”
In response to a delegate who stated: “We are situated in a very low-income area and a huge majority of our parents struggle to pay subs. It will be a majority rather than a small group,” adding, “if parents say they cannot afford the membership, how will it be determined who can and who can’t, without looking into individual finances; if parents refuse, are clubs going to be expected to foot the bill?” Barrett said: “We will work with clubs to find a way through this – if you’re interested in being involved in these discussions, do let us know.”
Meanwhile Barrett, in response to a query regarding duplication of effort at the RFL, said: “The RFL has seen a reduction in staffing numbers in recent times (including a redundancy programme in 2020 to deal with the impact of the pandemic). We have reduced numbers by 32 per cent (or 55 people) since 2016. The risk attached to this is quite the opposite to that of duplication of effort, rather the risk of the maintenance of the required levels of service to the game and all its members post this staff reduction.”
One attendee said: “Is the reluctance towards membership being caused by a long-standing feeling in the sport, below professional and semi-professional levels, that the RFL is a poor representation of our game? How can we improve this across the board? I’ve played, coached, and administered clubs and Leagues for over 30 years and the image of the RFL has always been a problem.” Barrett replied: “We accept that we could do a better job of communicating what the RFL does for the game – this has come through in the discussions we’ve had. Until now, we’ve focused on administrating the game ‘in the background’ but we now see that communications need to be improved so that people understand the huge amount of work that goes on. All stakeholders need to work together for the sport to grow. Constant negativity towards the RFL, whether you believe it is justified or not, damages the whole sport, not just the governing body.”
TWO of Wheelchair Rugby League’s big guns go head-to-head on Sunday (15 August) in the Challenge Cup Final.
Argonauts Skeleton Army, of Kent, take on Leeds Rhinos at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, with a 12.30pm start. The match is being screened live by BBC Sport Online.
The game couldn’t have come at a better time for many of English Rugby League’s top Wheelchair players, given the news that the keenly anticipated 2021 World Cup has been postponed for twelve months, through the joint decision of the Australian and New Zealand governing bodies not to take part this year.
Leeds are the holders, having lifted the coveted trophy in 2019, prior to the coronavirus lockdowns. Halifax had previously dominated the competition, winning each year since its inception in 2015.
This season’s competition involved qualifying, rather than knockout, games. The Rhinos accounted for Super League opposition in each of their five matches while Argonauts drew 6-6 with reigning Super League champions Halifax Panthers, who would have themselves reached the final had they beaten North Wales Crusaders by 35 points in their last match. The Welsh, though, restricted Panthers to a 26-14 win, the Skeleton Army progressing to the big stage as a result.
Leeds, meanwhile, accounted for the Argonauts 16-6 in the qualifiers, and are chasing a cup and league `double’. The southern outfit will have something to say about that.
Leeds Rhinos: James Simpson (player/coach), Nathan Collins, Tom Halliwell, Jodie Boyd-Ward, Ewan Clibbens, Josh Butler, Dan Baines, Paul Horrobin, Verity Carl Smith.
Argonauts: Fred Nye (player/coach), Lewis King (captain), Dan Edward, James Hazel, Freya Levy, Joe Coyd, Peter Johnston.
Admission is £10 (£5 concessions) and there are no advance ticket sales.
TWO years of hard work at Portico Vine is coming to fruition.
The St Helens outfit took the first steps towards upgrading facilities at their Scholes Lane base with a `dig’ last Wednesday, when players from all age groups, together with coaches and volunteers, temporarily put rugby balls aside for spades in a ceremonial start to the next phase.
Portico will boast a fine new clubhouse – replacing the beloved but aging building which has been home since 1945 – thanks to funding of the estimated £580,000 initiative by club members and volunteers, Sport England, Merseyside Police’s Community Cashback Scheme, St Helens Council, Virador Credits and Ravenair, together with club members and volunteers, matched by funding by the RLWC2021 Created By Programme.
Work begins on Tuesday 10 August and will, it is envisaged, be completed by next spring.
One of the club’s most famous products, all-time great Kieron Cunningham, of St Helens and Great Britain, performed the ceremonial `dig’ and enthused: “This club will always hold a place close to my heart. I am honoured to be invited to make the first dig, which marks a simply phenomenal effort by the club’s volunteers. I am blown away by the transformation since I was last here.”
Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Serena Kennedy, said: “We’re all about `one team’ in the police force and that’s clearly the underlying philosophy of everyone at Portico Vine. This initiative leaves an instant legacy, to improve the hopes and aspirations of young people.”
St Helens councillor Anthony Burns added: “This is a fantastic project by Portico Vine; the council is pledging to support local Rugby League teams to help improve facilities for grassroots players and hopefully influence the next generation of stars in the borough.”
Craig Richards of St Helens RLFC Community Development Foundation added: “We work closely on many projects in the community and the new club house is a deserved reward for the hard work and commitment over the years. Portico Vine is not just a Rugby League club – the work they do with vulnerable people, and in support of St Helens homeless charities, is a credit to them.” That focus on the community was, revealed Operations Manager Gareth Williams of Viridor Credits, a key factor in the company’s decision to offer support, a stance echoed by Ravenair owner Jeff Nuttal.
The Vine’s project manager David Hobin, in a sentiment echoed by chairman Mark Hobin and vice-chairman Billy Vaughan, said: “The new clubhouse is a major milestone in the history of the club and could not go to more deserving people, who commit so much of their spare time for Portico Vine and the children. The new modern facility, with a function room, large kitchen, toilets and refreshments area will not only benefit Portico Vine but the wider local community.”
VICTORIA PARK, Warrington will be the setting on Sunday (15 August) for the first Physical Disability Rugby League match between Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The historic game will, in addition, be the first PDRL match to be played under the new international rules. And, to add even further to the sense of occasion, the fixture will mark PDRL’s arrival as a fully classified and internationally recognisable disability sport.
The Origin match, which will kick off at 4.30pm, will climax a celebratory day of inclusive Rugby League at Victory Park, organised by the Wolves Foundation. Similar learning disability Rugby League festivals are to take place in Hull and Wakefield over the weekend.
The RFL’s Social and Inclusion Manager, Chris Godfrey, said: “Sunday is a landmark event for all of us in so many ways, players and administrators alike; our thanks go to Warrington Wolves Foundation for being such dedicated and enthusiastic hosts.
“As well as being a special occasion, Sunday will be a learning curve for everybody involved in PDRL – a world-first for this variation of the game and its debut as a fully-classified and internationally recognisable disability sport.”
England Community Lions PDRL Head Coach Shaun Briscoe said: “This is a great opportunity to showcase Physical Disability Rugby League to a wider audience, and for the players it’s another step up in their personal development and a chance to showcase their skills to the England Community Lions selectors.”
Warrington provide twelve of Lancashire’s 16-player squad; seven of Yorkshire’s party are with Wakefield Trinity.
Lancashire: Mike Addison, Jamie Barnett, Tom Bayliss, Wayne Cox, Adam Hills, Nathan Jezierski, Lewis Kennedy, Adam Morris, Stuart Ryder, Tony Seward, Barry Whalley, Josh Whipday (Warrington Wolves), Peter Clark, Sam Zeller (Leeds Rhinos), Steve Mort, Ben Seward (Wigan Warriors).
Yorkshire: Mick Colborn, Mark Gummerson, Nick Kennedy, Kenan Wilkes (Castleford Tigers), Darren Dean, Alex Dickinson, Adam Fleming, John Humphries, Connor Lynes, Ben Nicholson, Callum Parkinson (Wakefield Trinity), Scott Gobin, Nick Horner, Tommy Pouncey, Harvey Redmonds, Tom Sheridan, Chris Young (Leeds Rhinos).
THE Rugby Football League has embarked on its annual review of the amateur game’s Operational Rules.
The process involves consultation with leagues and clubs to ensure that the rules remain fit for purpose. Kelly Barrett, the RFL’s Head of Delivery, Community Game Competitions, said: “It also allows clubs and leagues the opportunity to feed back any suggested amendments that they may have.”
She continued: “We are not proposing to make any amendments to the rules. However, we would now ask clubs and leagues to review (the Operational Rules) and feed back any comments they may have by 31 August 2021.”
Barrett, meanwhile, advised that First Aid Standards are currently under review pending feedback from DCMS on concussion protocols. She added: “There will be mandatory education courses, linked to our `Tackle It Action Plan’, for players and volunteers to undertake should there be any unacceptable behaviour and language reported; additional support will be provided to competition discipline panels in dealing with these cases.
“We are also looking to introduce separate Operational Rules for Women’s’ Super League, to recognise that they are the top tier of the Women’s game and ensure that, as they are linked to professional clubs, there is some similarity in how they operate.”
THE winter-based Women’s Amateur Rugby League Association is aiming to return to action for the 2021-22 campaign after a year’s hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Invitations are being extended for inclusion, and long-serving official Amanda Wigglesworth told League Express: “We are throwing it out there to summer teams and new teams. Hopefully we can get the winter league airborne.”
WARL has been in existence for many years, predating by decades the RFL-run Women’s Super League and Championship, which includes a number of teams from the older competition.
ACKWORTH JAGUARS have added a five-figure sum to the Rob Burrow fund and the MND Association.
The Jaguars, who were coached by the former Leeds and England maestro several years ago, raised £13,339.19 through a recent match with Goole Vikings.
Organiser James Barnett said: “Ackworth Jaguars ran out 38-4 winners with a team consisting of many older lads who played under Rob when he coached us.
“We plan to continue raising awareness of motor neurone disease by making the fundraising match an annual event; we hope the Rugby League family will get behind us again.”
He concluded: “Both clubs would like to thank all who contributed to the fundraising effort.”
WOOLSTON ROVERS Under 11s and Under 12s sides will benefit from a chance to meet up with four Warrington Wolves players next month.
The fund-raising event, at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, will take place from 3.00pm on Sunday 19 September, when Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Danny Walker and Gareth Widdop will be on hand to chat to Rovers’ youngsters and take part in photo opportunities.
Ticket prices at £30 include admission and food; the cost is £45 if Woolston players want to be pictured with all four Warrington stars.
The day has been organised by Showman Events Ltd, and a professional photographer will be on hand; dress is smart-casual.
Tickets can be purchased by contacting Matt on 07891 020658 or Mark (07462 731195).
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